What’s the point of having a humanity stat if no-one pays attention to it?
Recently, I played a darling of mine, Patricia – a low-humanity (Masquerade) Malkavian kindred with unsavory habits – at a local LARP. She happened to be chatting with some Toreador and, upon hearing that this high-status Toreador had been spoken to disrespectfully by another courtier, Trish offered – with all sincerity – to tear out the offender’s tongue.
The Toreador smiled – also with every sign of sincerity – and agreed that might be an option.
Looking back on the incident, I wish I’d asked that player to check their humanity score. Because, really, if you’re hearing that kind of shit and your humanity is above, oh, a four* the appropriate reaction should be either “God, no! What are you saying?” or uneasy laughter and a prompt change or subject.
Of course, it’s possible that this Toreador was also a low-humanity character, or perhaps she thought I was kidding – Trish hadn’t yet publicly displayed her derangement – but I wish I’d known. More to the point, I wish I didn’t feel obliged to assume that the player simply wasn’t playing their humanity but, dammit, players don’t.
On average, I encounter way more PCs acting/reacting like their Humanity is below 5 (and their conscience below 1**) than are ever actually presented at game. I’ve GM’d enough chronicles to know what the usual statistical spread is. And yet, I’ve seen more eyebrows raised when the humanist vampire speaks up in favor of non-violence than I ever did when Trish clinically discussed just how much of a vampire’s skin can be removed before the aggravated injury puts them into torpor. Way more.
The humanity score is considered an inconvenient number that’s only really thought about in the wake of a failed virtue challenge, or a botched Frenzy roll. The rest of the time, it doesn’t seem to feature very much in a LARPer’s presentation of their character.
For what it’s worth, I always tried to incorporate Trish’s low humanity not only into her attitude, but also her appearance. Low humanity vampires are supposed to look more dead, more corpse-like than higher humanity characters. Before she acquired Mask of 1000 FacesI made a point of doing what I could to make my face pale (without it looking cartoonish) and would have invested in some fancy costume contact lenses were it not for the fact that I can’t wear them. But I digress.
One of my LARP mantras is that it’s about making choices without facing any real-world consequences. Combine that with the inescapable fact that a big part of the appeal of Vampire – Masquerade and Requiem – is a certain amount of casualness about violence and mayhem and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the humanity score is left at the wayside. Hey, we’re all blood-drinking monsters here, so why freak out about monstrous behavior?
Because blasé is boring, that’s why. Because ignoring the inconvenient numbers on your character sheet is lazy roleplaying. Because lazy roleplaying deprives you of an opportunity to do something new with your character and maybe take them in an unexpected direction. And where’s the fun in that?
*On the 1 – 10 scale
**One the 1 – 5 scale