This Discipline bestows uncanny sensory abilities upon the vampire. While Auspex initially heightens all of the Kindred's senses significantly, that is merely the beginning. As she grows in power, the vampire can perceive the psychic auras that flow around her and even project her mind into another being's thoughts. Furthermore, Auspex can pierce the disguises that Obfuscate creates; see "Seeing the Unseen," p. 152, for more details. Such sensory command gives the vampire a distinct advantage over mortals and even many supematurals. Whether these talents let her view a distant haven, sense the prince's mood or pluck secrets from a rival Kindred's ghoul, Auspex is a powerful tool. Still, the vampire must be careful lest this heightened sensitivity cause her to be distracted by beautiful things, startled by loud noises or overwhelmed by foul smells. Sudden or dynamic events can disorient an Auspex-using character unless she makes a Willpower roll (difficulty 4) to block them out. The more potent the source of distraction, the higher the difficulty. Failure overwhelms the character's senses, making her oblivious to her surroundings for a turn or two. Malkavians and Toreador are most susceptible to such distractions. Kindred from the Tremere and Tzimisce clans seem better able to regulate their sensory input, but they are not immune to the occasional distraction. A high Perception Trait is a great boon to using Auspex powers. The better the roll, the greater the degree of sensory information the character gains.
This power sharpens all of the vampire's senses, effectively doubling the clarity and range of sight, hearing and smell. While her senses of taste and touch extend no farther than normal, they likewise become far more acute; the vampire could taste the hint of liquor in a victim's blood, or feel the give of the board concealing a hollow space in the floor. The Kindred may magnify her senses at will, sustaining this heightened focus for as long as she desires. At the Storyteller's option, this may make hunting easier. Occasionally, this talent provides extrasensory or even precognitive insights. These brief, unfocused glimpses may be odd premonitions, flashes of empathy or eerie feelings of foreboding. The vampire has no control over these perceptions, but with practice can learn to interpret them with a fair degree of accuracy. Expanded senses come at a price, however. Bright lights, loud noises and strong smells present a hazard while the vampire uses this power. In addition to the possibility for distraction mentioned above, an especially sudden stimulus - like the glare of a spotlight or a clap of thunder - can blind or deafen the Kindred for an hour or more.
System: This power doesn't normally require the use of dice, instead being defined through the Storyteller's descriptions and the player's imagination. In certain circumstances, use of this power requires a die roll: for a normal Perception roll (the Storyteller may reduce the difficulty by the character's Auspex rating), to notice a subject using Obfuscate (see p. 166), or to perceive a threat (the Storyteller privately rolls the character's unmodified Auspex rating, applying whatever difficulty he feels best suits the circumstances). For example, in the last instance, sensing that a pistol is pointed at the back of the character's head may require a 5, while the sudden realization that a rival for primogen is planning her assassination may require a 9 This power does not let characters see in pitch darkness, as does Eyes of the Beast (p. 173), but it does reduce difficulty penalties to act in pitch darkness from +2 to +1, and the character may make ranged attacks in pitch darkness if she can hear, smell or otherwise detect her foe.
Using this power, the vampire can perceive the psychic "auras" that radiate from mortals and supernatural beings alike. These halos comprise a shifting series of colors that take practice to discern with clarity. Even the simplest individual has many shifting hues within his aura; strong emotions predominate, while momentary impressions or deep secrets flash through in streaks and swirls. The colors change in sympathy with the subject's emotional state, blending into new tones in a constantly dancing pattern. The stronger the emotions involved, the more intense the hues become. A skilled vampire can learn much from her subject by reading the nuances of color and brilliance in the aura's flow. Aside from perceiving emotional states, vampires use Aura Perception to detect supernatural beings. The colors in Kindred auras, while intense, are quite pale; mage auras often flare and crackle with suppressed power; werebeasts have strikingly bright, almost frantic, halos; ghosts have weak auras that flicker fitfully like a dying flame; and faerie creatures' radiance is shot through with rainbow hues.
System: The player rolls Perception + Empathy (difficulty 8); each success indicates how much of the subject's aura the character sees and understands (see the table below). A botch indicates a false or erroneous interpretation. The Storyteller may wish to make this roll, thus keeping the player in the dark as to just how good (or bad) the character's interpretation is.
1 success Can distinguish only the shade (pale or bright)
2 successes Can distinguish the main color.
3 successes Can recognize the color patterns.
4 successes Can detect subtle shifts.
5 successes Can identify mixtures of color and pattern.
The Aura Colors chart offers examples of some common colors and the emotions they reflect. The character may view a particular subject's aura only once with any degree of clarity. Any subsequent attempts that result in failure should be considered botches. It is very easy for the character to imagine seeing what she wants to see when judging someone's intentions. After a full month, the character may try again at no penalty. It is possible, though difficult, to sense the aura of a being who is otherwise invisible to normal sight. Refer to "Seeing the Unseen," p. 152, for more information.
Condition Aura Colors
Calm Light Blue
Desirous or Lustful Deep Red
Distrustful Light Green
Envious Dark Green
Suspicious Dark Blue
Confused Mottled, shifting colors
Diablerist Black veins in aura
Daydreaming Sharp flickering colors
Frenzied Rapidly rippling colors
Psychotic Hypnotic, swirling colors
Vampire Appropriate color is pale
Magic Use Myriad sparkles in aura
Werebeast Bright, vibrant aura
Ghost Weak, intermittent aura
Faerie Weak, intermittent aura
The Spirit's Touch
When someone handles an object for any length of time, he leaves a psychic impression on the item. A vampire with this level of Auspex can "read" these sensations, learning who handled the object, when he last held it and what was done with it recently. These visions are seldom clear and detailed, registering more like a kind of "psychic snapshot." Still, the Kindred can learn much even from such a glimpse. Although most visions concern the last person to handle the item, a long-time owner leaves a stronger impression than someone who held the object briefly. Gleaning information from the spiritual residue requires the vampire to hold the object and enter a shallow trance. She is only marginally aware of her surroundings while using The Spirit's Touch, but a loud noise or jarring physical sensation breaks the trance instantly.
System: The player rolls Perception + Empathy. The difficulty is determined by the age of the impressions and the mental and spiritual strength of the person or event that left them. Sensing information from a pistol used for murder hours ago may require a 5, while learning who owned a set of keys found days ago might be a 9. The greater the individual's emotional connection to the object, the stronger the impression he leaves on it - and the more information the Kindred can glean from it. Also, events involving strong emotions (a gift-giving, a torture, a long family history) likewise leave stronger impressions than does short or casual contact. Assume that each success offers one piece of information. While one success tells the character only that "a man held this pocket watch last," three reveal that he was petty, middle-aged and afraid. Four successes discover his name, and five or more reveal his connection to the watch as well as some of the things he did with it in his possession.
The vampire projects a portion other consciousness into a nearby mortal's mind, creating a mental link through which she can communicate wordlessly or even read the target's deepest thoughts. The Kindred "hears" in her own mind the thoughts plucked from a subject as if they were spoken to her. This is one of the most potent vampiric abilities, since, given time, a Kindred can learn virtually anything from a subject without him ever knowing. The Tremere and Tzimisce in particular find this power especially useful in gleaning secrets from others, or for directing their mortal followers with silent precision.
System: The player rolls Intelligence + Subterfuge (difficulty of the subject's Willpower). Projecting thoughts into the target's mind requires one success. The subject recognizes that the thoughts come from somewhere other than his own consciousness, although he cannot discern their actual origin. To read minds, one success must be rolled for each item of information plucked or each layer of thought pierced. Deep secrets or buried memories are harder to obtain than surface emotions or unspoken comments, requiring five or more successes to access. Telepathy does not commonly work upon the undead mind. A character may expend a Willpower point to make the effort, making the roll normally afterward. Likewise, it is equally difficult to read the thoughts of other supernatural creatures.
Storytellers are encouraged to describe thoughts as flowing streams of impressions and images, rather than as a sequence of prose. Instead of making flat statements like "He's planning on killing his former lover's new boyfriend," say "You see a fleeting series of visions: A couple kissing passionately in a doorway, then the man walking alone at night; you suddenly see your hands, knuckles white, wrapped around a steering wheel, with a figure crossing the street ahead; your heart, mortal now and hammering with panic as you hear the engine rev wildly; and above all, a blazing anger coupled with emotional agony and a panicked fear of loss." Such descriptions not only add to the story, they also force the player to decide for herself what her character reads. After all, understanding minds - especially highly emotional or deranged minds - is a difficult and often puzzling task.
Seeing the Unseen
Auspex enables Kindred to perceive many things beyond mortal ken. Among its many uses, Auspex candetect the presence of a supernatural being who is hidden from normal sight (a vampire using Obfuscate, a mage cloaked with invisibility, a wraith) or pierce illusions created by the Discipline of Chimerstry. -
Obfuscate: When a vampire tries to use her heightened perceptions to notice a Kindred hidden with Obfuscate, she detects the subject's presence if her Auspex rating is higher than his Obfuscate. Conversely, if the target's Obfuscate outranks her Auspex, he remains undiscovered. If the two scores are equal, both characters make a resisted roll of Perception + Subterfuge (Auspex user) against Manipulation + Subterfuge(Obfuscate user). The difficulty for both rolls is 7, and the character with the most successes wins.
- Chimerstry: Likewise, vampires with Auspex may seek to penetrate illusions created with Chimerstry. The Auspex-wielder must actively seek to pierce the illusion (i.e., the player must tell the Storyteller that his character is trying to detect an illusion). Auspex-wielder and Chimerstry-wielder then compare relative scores, per Obfuscate, above. The process is otherwise identical to piercing Obfuscate. - Other Powers: Since the powers of beings like mages and wraiths function differently from vampiric Disciplines, a simple comparison of relative ratings isn't applicable. To keep things simple, both characters make a resisted roll. The vampire rolls Perception + Subterfuge, while the subject rolls Manipulation + Subterfuge. Again, the difficulty is 7, and the character with the most successes wins.
The Kindred with this awesome ability projects her senses out of her physical shell, stepping from her body as an entity of pure thought. The vampire's astral form is immune to physical damage or fatigue, and can "fly" with blinding speed anywhere across the earth - or even underground - so long as she remains below the moon's orbit. The Kindred's material form lies in a torpid state while her astral self is active, and the vampire isn't aware of anything that befalls her body until she returns to it. An ephemeral silver cord connects the Kindred's psyche to her body. If this cord is severed, her consciousness becomes stranded in the astral plane, the realm of ghosts, spirits and shades. Attempting to return to the vampire's physical shell is a long and terrifying ordeal, especially since there is no guarantee that she will accomplish the journey successfully. This significant danger keeps many Kindred from leaving their bodies for long, but those who dare can learn much.
System: Journeying in astral form requires the player to expend a point of Willpower and make a Perception + Occult roll. Difficulty varies depending on the distance and complexity of the intended trip; 7 is average, with 10 reflecting a trip far from familiar territory (a first journey from North America to the Far East; trying to shortcut through the earth). The greater the number of successes rolled, the more focused the character's astral presence is and the easier it is for her to reach her desired destination. Failure means the character is unable to separate her consciousness from her body, while a botch can have nasty consequences - flinging her astral form to a random destination on Earth or in the spirit realm, or heading for the desired destination so forcefully that the silver cord snaps. Changing course or continuing to another destination requires another point of Willpower and a new roll. Failure indicates that the vampire has lost her way and must retrace the path of her silver cord. A botch at this stage means the cord snaps, stranding the character's psychic form in the mysterious astral plane. An astral form may travel at great speeds (the Storyteller can use 1000 miles per hour as a general guide) and carries no clothing or material objects of any kind. Some artifacts are said to exist in the spirit world, and the character can try to use one of these tools if she finds one. The character cannot bring such relics to the physical world when she returns to her body, however. Interaction with the physical world is impossible while using Psychic Projection. At best, the character may spend a Willpower point to manifest as a ghostlike shape. This apparition lasts one turn before fading away; while she can't affect anything physically during this time, the character can speak. Despite lacking physical substance, an astral character can use Auspex normally. At the Storyteller's discretion, such a character may employ any Animalism, Dementation, Dominate, Necromancy, Obtenebration, Presence and/or Thaumaturgy powers she has, though this typically requires a minimum of three successes on the initial Psychic Projection roll. If two astral shapes encounter one another, they interact as if they were solid. They may talk, touch and even fight as if both were in the material world. Since they have no physical bodies, astral characters seeking to interact "physically" substitute Mental and Social Traits for Physical ones (Wits replaces Dexterity, Manipulation supplants Strength, and Intelligence replaces Stamina). Due to the lack of a material form, the only real way to damage another psychic entity is to cut its silver cord. When fighting this way, consider Willpower points to be health levels; when a combatant loses all of her Willpower, the cord is severed. Although an astrally projected character remains in the reflection of the mortal world (referred to as the Penumbra in other World of Darkness games), she may venture further into the spirit realms, especially if she becomes lost. Other beings, such as ghosts, werewolves and even rare magi, travel the astral plane as well, and can interact with a vampire's psychic presence normally. Storytellers are encouraged to make trips into the spirit world as bizarre, mysterious and dreamlike as possible. The world beyond is a vivid and fantastic place, where the true nature of things is stronger and often strikingly different from their earthly appearances.
Note: For Storytellers familiar with White Wolf's other games, the "astral plane" to which the vampire travels is a reflection of the Umbra in general, not one specific level.