Easily one of the most overtly spectacular of the gifts of the Damned, the Discipline of Protean is the study of physical metamorphosis and transformation. The nature of this power is hotly debated among the Kindred, for its abilities are so varied while simultaneously stemming from no obvious aspect of the Curse. Whatever its cause or origin, Protean allows its masters to assume virtually any form or shape.
Since the core of a vampire’s self doesn’t alter with his shape, a transformed Kindred can generally take any action or use any Discipline that his new form can reasonably allow. Gangrel in the form of a cloud of mist, for example, could read auras (as the sense of sight doesn’t vanish), but couldn’t Dominate someone effectively (as the prerequisite eye contact can no longer be established). A vampire’s clothes and personal effects change shape with him, but he cannot normally transmute especially large objects or other creatures.
Unless stated otherwise, Protean powers — being permanent physical changes — last as long as the vampire wishes them to, or until he is forced into torpor. Any state that prevents the character from taking action (such as being staked) likewise prevents transformation; the vampire needs the freedom to invoke his will.
Aspect of the Predator
The most basic ability of this Discipline allows a vampire to project a supernatural mien of savage predatory ferocity.
Dice Pool: This power involves no roll. A character is not subject to the usual relationships of Blood Potency upon meeting an unknown Kindred for the first time. If the character’s Blood Potency is lower than that of the unknown Kindred, treat it as equal. If the character’s Blood Potency is equal to or higher than the unknown Kindred, this power has no effect.
A character may choose to suspend this power if he so desires, but if he does, it ceases to function for an entire scene. He may not selectively apply it to individual vampires he meets within that scene.
Haven of Soil
The vampire who has achieved this much-prized level of mastery over Protean has learned how to meld his form with that of any natural substance. One can blend his form only with simple soil at first, but with time and experience he can eventually learn how to conjoin with other elements. While so interred, the character is immune to threat of harm from the sun’s rays, or to any physical attack as his corporeal form is actually merged with that of the substance itself. Some Gangrel rely on this ability while traveling from domain to domain, as its power gives them the ultimate freedom to do so.
This style of rest is the method of choice for many Kindred who must enter torpor. Whiling away the decades in a largely protected state, free from risk of detection or Final Death, is an attractive prospect. While such a character cannot be dug up, any significant disturbance to the area in which he resides alerts the vampire to the presence of intruders, though not necessarily to the details of their intrusion. If enough damage is done to the sleeping Kindred’s resting place, he returns immediately to corporeal form (and full wakefulness) in a shower of whatever substance he had taken for his haven.
Cost: 1 Vitae
Dice Pool: No roll is necessary. Becoming one with a natural substance is automatic and takes a character’s action in a turn to complete. While in this state, the character’s consciousness hovers slightly above the torpor level (unless the vampire is both in torpor and in this state, in which case he is unaware), making perception of his surroundings distant at best. A player must succeed in a Humanity roll in order for his character to be aware of the presence of others in or around his place of rest (barring significant alteration to the vampire’s haven, of course, in which case he becomes aware automatically).
Since the character is literally part of the earth, all attempts at locating him (via his scent, his aura or even through mystical methods of tracking) suffer a -3 penalty to their dice pools. Indeed, a searcher is likely to be confounded a bit even if he is successful. No attack can harm the interred vampire while he is in this state; a significant disruption of his surroundings can only cause him to resurface.
When this power is first acquired, the character can meld his form only with natural earth or soil. If any other substance— including asphalt, wood or concrete — lies in the way between the vampire and natural ground, he cannot activate this power. (He must dig his way to natural soil or else find a way to stand thereupon.) With the expenditure of an additional three experience points, however, the vampire can select another natural substance from the following list: wood, water, natural stone or processed stone. “Processed stone” includes varieties of prepared surfacing materials such as concrete and asphalt. He can now meld into soil and this extra substance with equal ease. Thus, if his player spends 12 experience points, a vampire can rest in all five materials — virtually anywhere. Note that there must still be enough of a substance to accommodate the vampire’s form in roughly his natural Size. (A large tree trunk might suffice, but a small branch does not.) Those who meld with water leave a barely visible, humanoid-shaped outline just below the surface, but are otherwise just as protected and concealed as though they were inside soil.
Claws of the Wild
Upon activation of this power, the vampire’s nails grow into long, fearsome talons, capable of rending bone and flesh alike. This power makes many Gangrel truly fearsome combatants, and other Kindred tend to give them a wide berth. Note that not every vampire’s claws look the same. Some seem to be modeled after real-world animals’, such as wolves’, tigers’ or the talons of birds of prey, while other claws seem to have no natural correlative at all. As might be expected, when these last vampires unsheathe their claws, they tend to greatly unnerve those around them.
Cost: 1 Vitae
Dice Pool: This power involves no roll. The wicked claws grow by silent act of will on the part of the vampire, and they can be sprouted from both a vampire’s hands and feet.
Imbued with the unholy power of Vitae, these ferocious weapons offer a +1 bonus to attack pools in unarmed close combat, and inflict aggravated damage. Of course, these bonuses require that the character actually attacks with his claws — one cannot invoke Claws of the Wild and then gain a +1 bonus and aggravated damage if attacking with an axe or pistol, for example. In addition to their combat potential, the claws add two dice to any climbing-related rolls as long as they remain invoked. The claws remain for the scene unless the vampire retracts them prematurely.
Shape of the Beast
The canon of vampire legend is filled with stories of undead lords taking the semblance of the “children of the night.” This power is the source of those legends. With it, a Kindred can take the shape of an ordinary animal, most commonly a bat or a wolf. While in this form, the vampire retains his mind and temperament, but he can call upon the physical qualities of his newfound body (increased speed and senses as a wolf, sonar sense and flight as a bat).
With time and experience, the character can learn to adopt the other form (bat or wolf) or others.
Cost: 1 Vitae
Dice Pool: This power requires no roll to activate. The transformation from human to animal or back again requires a character’s action in a turn. All clothing and small possessions shift with the vampire, and he can remain in his animal state until he chooses to shift back. A vampire can even sleep the day away in animal form, but must still avoid sunlight, which always affects vampires regardless of form. In addition, sleeping in animal form is taxing on the vampiric state, requiring the expenditure of an additional Vitae upon awakening.
While in animal form, a vampire can use any Discipline in his repertoire except for Theban Sorcery, Crúac and Dominate (which becomes impossible when one tries to bark and yip commands). Each animal form conveys a separate host of benefits. As a wolf, the vampire’s claws and teeth inflict lethal damage and add a +1 bonus to attack pools, Speed is doubled, and two bonus dice are added to any Wits + Composure rolls to be aware of events that happen in the wolf ’s environment. As a bat, the vampire’s Strength becomes 1, but he can fly at a Speed of 20 (plus five more per dot of Vigor activated); three dice are added to all hearing-based rolls, and Defense increases by two.
(At the player’s discretion, he may spend another Vitae and allow a character in wolf form or any other suitable form as described here to activate Claws of the Wild. As with normal uses of that power, these claws are obviously supernatural or otherwise remarkable, and even those unfamiliar with the world of the Damned will know that something is not quite right about the animal in question. A character who has assumed Shape of the Beast and also activates Claws of the Wild gains a +1 bonus to attack pools and inflicts aggravated damage instead of gaining a +1 bonus to attack pools and inflicting lethal damage with claw attacks.)
When this power is first acquired, only bat or wolf form is available. With Storyteller permission, every three experience points spent allows a character access to the other form, or to an altogether different predatory animal, usually a mammal, although it’s rumored that Kindred in far-flung lands can assume the forms of predatory and scavenger birds.
A vampire in animal form is not subject to the Animalism Discipline. Dominate may still be used on him in whatever form — human or animal — he assumes.
Body of Spirit
The pinnacle of most vampires’ achievement in the transfiguring art, this power enables a Kindred to transform his entire body into a fine, chilling mist. As a small cloud of vapor, the character can float along above the ground at his normal Speed, slipping under doors and in between screens with ease. Although especially strong winds can divert him from his desired course for a time, not even gale-force winds can fully disperse his misty essence.
Cost: 1 Vitae
Dice Pool: This power involves no roll to invoke. The full change takes one action to complete.
If a strong enough wind picks up, the character’s vaporous body could be subjected to unwanted direction change if he does not resist successfully. Roll Strength (plus any Vigor that the vampire activates). There’s no modifier for a light wind. A strong one imposes a -1 penalty, and a galeforce wind imposes a -3 penalty. A success allows the vampire to travel in any direction desired for the turn, even against the wind. An exceptional success allows him to travel in any direction for the remainder of the scene. A failure indicates that the vampire is pushed by the wind for one turn at the speed it travels. And a dramatic failure causes the vampire to blow out of control (but still as a cohesive whole) for the entire scene.
While in mist form, the character is immune to all physical attacks, which merely pass through his gaseous body. Mystical attacks, however, still affect him normally, though mystical attacks that use mundane methods of delivery are similarly ineffective (such as claws or enchanted physical weapons). Even fire and sunlight inflict one less point of damage than normal. The trade-off, of course, is that a vampire in this state cannot physically attack anyone (not even another vampire using this power). Disciplines that do not require a body might still be effective, though. A vampire in gaseous form can use any Discipline he knows except for Theban Sorcery, Crúac and Dominate (which is useless when he has no eyes with which to make contact and no mouth with which to speak commands).
A vampire in mist form cannot be “bottled” or otherwise trapped in part by someone trying to contain or disrupt his form. Bottling a portion of a vampire’s mist doesn’t cause him to resume human form without an arm, for example. A vampire’s entire mist form can be contained in a room or other large space that is airtight. Of course, the question arises of how one can lure a vampire in mist form into an airtight room, or how one even has access to an airtight room.