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One of the characters in a campaign of mine has a signed a Blood Contract keeping him from talking about where he got a magic item or about any of the details surrounding it.

The V20 Core book states that its an unbreakable agreement between the two parties who sign it. After the ritual is complete, both parties are compelled to fulfill the terms of the contract. It also states however that it's up to the storyteller's discretion to bring those who signed into compliance by whatever means necessary. (Demons materializing is not unheard of).

So by my understanding, the contract does not physically disable the player from speaking about it but if he does, he will be severely punished / forced into keeping his mouth shut.

But what happens if he is not speaking/acting of his own will, but instead is being forced through Dominate or another discipline? Does anyone have experience with this Thaumaturgical ritual?

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3 Answers 3

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First, thanks to Rob for posting the actual text and to Sardathrion for the intelligent discussion of an option. But I respectfully disagree with both of them.

Bottom line

Since this wound up getting long, I added a section up front to just straight list my suggestion:

The ritual will make the character use a willpower point to resist any domination that would directly make them break the contract.

My default stance

The system explicitly says that the storyteller should use any means necessary to bring them into compliance. The storyteller always has license to do whatever crafts the best story even when it means overruling the rules, and this particular rule makes that even more explicit.

With that said, I look at the terms "unbreakable" and "into compliance" and I see this ritual mostly as one of compulsion. All signers must enter into agreement "voluntarily" (they have to actually sign, its not a ritual that can be done without some sort of consent, but nothing says it can't be signed under threat of torture or while the other party has a hostage...), but once entered the ritual has tremendous power over the signers to bring them into compliance.

So, I might use some poetic license in some cases, but for the most part I would view it as making the signers unable to take an action directly contrary to the contract, or fail to take a necessary action. They simply could not chose to break it. They could do things that would make fulfillment less likely to be possible (stalling on a contract with a deadline, for isntance) and that is where I would get more creative about making them slowly more uncomfortable.

But the ritual would compell them to do anything "within reason", and may provide punishment even for failing to do unreasonable things. What I mean is that if they expected to spend 3 nights fulfilling the contract, but it really takes three years, then they must spend 3 years working. But if they get to a situation where they have a chance of fulfilling the contract, but only by doing something clearly suicidal or by striking a deal with a demon, the ritual won't go so far as to make them die or give up their soul, but it will punish them for that kind of failure.

The ritual will not normally do something to help them comply. If they have a deadline, but they were bound in chains until it passed through no fault of their own, the ritual will not help them get out of the chains. They will struggle increasingly frantically as the deadline nears, using blood, disciplines, and anything else at their disposal but if they can't get out, they can't get out. Once the deadline passes, the ritual will punish them, but my "default" punishment is that they feel the need to make restitution to the other party commensurate with what the other party promised in the contract (which may be much less, or much more than what the bound up character promised.)

The way this would apply in the direct question is that the character being dominated to break the contract would be compelled to use a willpower point to help resist. But if the dominator overcomes that level of resistance, then the character reveals the secret.

At that point, the ritual has compelled the character to do everything within their power to try to uphold the contract. When they fail, the ritual will punish them, but my default punishment is restitution to the other party.

More creative options

That as I explained is my default. I would certainly feel free to do something a bit more creative, depending on circumstances.

For instance, if the dominating character did the dominating because the signer was subtly hinting that it was the only way for him to reveal that information and the signer was encouraging the domination, then the ritual will make him spend the willpower point and try to resist anyway, and then set his throat and mouth on fire to stop him from revealing it.

Of course, this is a contract, so verbiage matters. If the contract says he can't talk about it, he is free to write about it. If it says he can't reveal the information, then it might also set his hands on fire to stop him from writing.

I find having the contract grant bonuses possible, but a stretch. I view it as mostly about compulsion. The way I might work it is that if a character specifcally tries to invoke the contract then he can get a bonus, but he does so at a risk. For instance, if he is being dominated and deliberately invokes the contract he will roll int + occult (or some other related skill. Essentially I view it as him trying to consciously guide the power of the contract). Success means a bonus of 5 against that particular domination, and no punishment if the domination does force him to reveal. But failure means that the contract sets his eyes on fire to make the domination impossible.[Edit: Bob pointed out that might not work, so perhaps it sets his tongue on fire.] A botch means that the contract creates a massive inferno around him to make sure he can't be dominated and that he couldn't speak or write if his mind was somehow influenced.

Similarly, if he is chained up with a deadline ticking, the contract makes him fight and use blood points to fight harder. Invoking the contract successfully gives him a Potens boost to try to break the chains. Invoking it unsucessfully means he has to try to break his own bones or even chew his own body parts off to get out of the chains and the restitution will be multiplied if he still fails.

Why I think Rob and Sardathrion are reasonable, but wrong

Rob and Sardathrion have intelligent, reasonable answers, but I respectfully think they are both wrong. I think it is reasonable because the text says the storyteller should use discretion in enforcement, and also because there is an anology to real world contract law in "tortious interference with a contractual relationship". It lets the courts, under the right circumstances, "punish" someone who forces someone else to break a contract.

But I think it fails. For one thing, the analogy is imperfect. Tortious interference requires that the "interferer" have actual knoweldge of the contract, and that the interference is not somehow privileged. Although not technically a requirement, most successful cases of tortious intereference have some element of "wrongdoing". If I pay someone to break their contract with you and I did it primarily to hurt you, you can probably sue me successfully. If I pay someone to make my contract with them their top priority because I really need it done, then I am probably safe from a suit even if I fully knew that they had a contract with you and that fulfilling my contract would mean they probably couldn't fulfill yours. In this case, the dominator may not know about the contract and probably wants the information for its own sake, not just to make the character break the contract.

Second, this isn't law, it is magic. The magic has a certain scope, here it is the signers. It just doesn't have much influence on the world outside the signers. I know I just advocated letting it grant bonuses, but those are bonuses to the signer so the direct affect is still on the signer and the bonuses also came with risk attached to it if the signer chose to accept them. So, I think Sardathions idea of punishing the dominator directly is giving the ritual too much power. It is letting it affect those that didn't sign. At the very least, I think there needs to be a resisted roll between the ritual-caster and the interfer to see if the ritual can get any power over him, and even that seems a stretch to me.

Third, permitting Rob or Sardathrion's answer makes the ritual open to abuse. It seems clear that this is about making sure the other party complies. But I know it will help the other party comply I can use it to build in safegaurds. Say I know I want to succeed in something, but someone else with a strong dominate really wants me to stop. So, I contract with you that I will do my something and you will give me a dime. You hand me the dime immediately at the end of the contract so you have fulfilled your side and are safe. I can now go about my something knowing that I won't change my own mind, and no magical influence will change it for me. It might help me even more than that and let me break out of chains, etc.

Some GM's might call that creative spellcasting and allow it, but to me it seems really open to abuse (and there are other rituals that can be used to increase mental resistance anyway). Going with my suggestion of "invoking deliberately" does allow a certain amount of this, but it adds some pretty serious risks that will make people think twice about invoking, still focuses on compulsion, and its only direct effect is on the signers.

{Since I mentioned real world law, I will go ahead and say I am not a lawyer.}

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Good points there; also considering Dominate; the text for the power states: "If the vampire scores one or two successes, the subject cannot be forced to do anything that seems strange to her (she might walk outside, but is unlikely to steal a car). At three or four successes, the command is effective unless following it endangers the subject. At five successes or greater, the vampire can implant nearly any sort of command." So to break a contract they're going to need five successes I'd believe. –  Rob Oct 25 '12 at 9:41
    
Great insight, thanks for taking the time to share. Thinking about it, third party punishment might indeed be going too far. Extra/boosted power to make sure the contract is upheld sounds like a good idea. And like Rob states, it will take 5 or more successes for any type of dominate to succeed in this case. P.S. your suggestion of making their eyes catch flame won't actually work, blind kine/kindred can still be dominated. At least according to v20, not sure about earlier versions. –  Bob Oct 25 '12 at 10:13
    
@Bob thanks for pointing out the part about blind being able to be dominated, I only have the older version and don't think that was explicit there. –  TimothyAWiseman Oct 25 '12 at 16:23
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@TimothyAWiseman It's on page 152 in the V20 corebook. "A target trying to avoid eye contact can make a Willpower roll against a difficulty equal to Dominate user’s Manipulation + Intimidation (or other appropriate combination for other Disciplines or specific situations, at the Storyteller’s discretion). The difficulty may be reduced for mitigating factors: -1 in the case of the target obscuring his eyes slightly (such as closing her eyes or wearing dark sunglasses) up to a -3 for the eyes being completely unseen (such as with a thick blindfold or having her eyes torn out)." –  Bob Oct 30 '12 at 16:59
    
@Bob thanks for the clarification. I have the older book and haven't read it for a while. Though I have to say I'm a bit surprised that it would work with "eys torn out." –  TimothyAWiseman Oct 30 '12 at 17:24

The letter of the law:

He spoke of what should not have been spoken. All bad effects are in action.

The spirit of the law:

Nothing happens since it was not a free will action.

Trying to lawyer me?...

The person who broke the contract of their own free will is the one using Dominate. While not a signatory, they have put themselves under the ritual's effects. So, a portion of the bad things happen to them as well as to the target of the dominate. What portion is that? Depends on where I want the story to go as a referee...

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I like it, didn't even think of the third party getting involved in the punishment. The contract actually states that it must remain between the two parties. So the third party would most likely forget the intel or be silenced. Thanks for the idea! –  Bob Oct 22 '12 at 12:32
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I don't have a the rulebook in front of me, but having "bad things" happen to the third person doing the dominating seems to be going outside the letter and severely stretching the spirit. They after all did not have the magic attach to them, it simply does no seem it should have any direct hold over them. Now, having something magical happen to the one being compelled that lets him avoid the compulsion might be more reasonable. The magic did attach to him, and just might protect against that specific type of domination... –  TimothyAWiseman Oct 22 '12 at 16:43
    
You do have a point there, but that would mean that the magic would conveniently enough protect against all disciplines that would force someone to talk/act against her will. And then what about physical torture? –  Bob Oct 22 '12 at 16:51
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@Bob The magic could protect against disciplines that would force someone to talk/act against the contract. Normally this would be quite limited, and might take the form of trying but failing to speak or even properly mouth the words in your example. Someone could try to abuse this by creating contracts with someone saying something like "We will only ever do as we wish..." but a GM could either rule that such a contract isn't a contract and the spell fails, or (if the gm is cruel) take it really literally and rule that the character no longer has any self control. –  TimothyAWiseman Oct 23 '12 at 18:36
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@Sardathrion I don't think its about how "intelligent" the magic is, but about who it has sway over. It has sway over the signers, but not over everything else. Here, I think protecting the signer from that command in domination makes sense, I also think his throat spontaneously bursting into flames to stop him from talking makes sense. But it can't reach out to others. For another example, would you expect this spell to demolish physical wall that would otherwise make the character break a deadline? After all, that wall is the problem that will make the contract be broken... –  TimothyAWiseman Oct 23 '12 at 18:42

Blood contract text:

This ritual creates an unbreakable agreement between the two parties who sign it. The contract must be written in the casters blood and signed in the blood of whomever applies their name to the document. This ritual takes three nights to enact fully, after which both parties are compelled to fulfill the terms of the contract.

System: This ritual is best handled by the storyteller, who may bring those who sign the contract into compliance by any means necessary. The only way to terminate the ritual is to complete the terms of the contract or to burn the document itself. 1 blood point is consumed in the creation of the document, and an additional blood point is consumed by those who sign it.

Application

If someone is trying to dominate/influence someone to break the contract somehow then I would give the person who is under the contract it an additional five dice (level five ritual) to resist such an effect - the power of the contract is trying to prevent them from doing this.

This is a level five ritual and powerful magic; the Tremere are no fools and so if just dominating someone to stop doing whatever X was in the contract would be a trivial way to stop them doing it, especially given that dominate is a Tremere discipline they're going to think of this!

Hence as Sardarthrion says, I would apply the penalty for breaking the contract to both the dominater and the contract signer. Double whammy.

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The resisting roll makes sense. The magic should be powerful due to it being a level five ritual. And seeing as this particular Tremere is the one that innovated Technomancy, I'd say the magic is indeed powerful enough. Thanks for the clarification and text! –  Bob Oct 24 '12 at 9:14

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