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I'm planning a campaign set during the French revolution and I expect the players to affect human society quite a lot.

I don't find it plausible for a vampire to be an overt important character, for example Robespierre, because I think it will be impossible to explain not being able to show up during daylight.

So I guess I'm left with indirect ways of controlling important humans, say ghouling them, dominating or awing with presence or mundane blackmail and such.

Do you have excuses for vampires to more directly affect human matters (before the age of electricity and night clubs)? Other ways to make pawns of historical figures?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Szega, daze413, Miniman, enkryptor, Oblivious Sage Aug 25 '17 at 13:00

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Here are some ways I've used social establishments from my WOD games set in historical settings which allow my players to exploit and influence mortals:

Social Establishments

Coffeehouses

When coffee was first brought over from the Americas in the 15th Century, it was seen as a novelty and indulgence. That quickly changed in the years to come as the emerging middle-class in Europe acquired a taste for the stuff and mixed it with spices, sugar and milk. Establishments were founded to serve the coffee-drinking culture and this is where the learned and merchant men of the day would gather to gossip, discuss politics and ultimately, make under-the-table deals and negotiate business transactions. This is an EXCELLENT place for historical Kindred to gather and there's no finer place (other than England) in Europe to do so (and do it big!). Serious people frequent these places and a social-focused Kindred will do well here, especially those on the Humanity track or who are Road of Kings (Serpents too!).

Salons

For the women of the day, one of the most popular places to go was at the Salon: a place of the most sinful gossip, games of chance, and an abundance of the elite and the beautiful who would come to be pampered and harpy here. A great place for female Kindred to hang out, Torries, Blue Bloods and Loons will especially love it (even Serpents might find something here!). Be careful though, a lot of these women are attached to, married to and/or related to powerful noble or merchant families, even royalty!

Pubs

For the lower classes who had no way to afford the delights of Salons or had the money or education to back them up in the coffeehouses, pubs were the next best thing. Brujah will love these place and most likely frequented them even when they were alive (except the brew now makes em' throw for an entirely different reason...). Malks and Ravnos can play parlor tricks on unsuspecting gullible patrons, while Tories or those on Path of Humanity can just hang back with their fellow man (while avoiding being stabbed by an angry drunk in the process) and feed on them while they engorge themselves chicken and ale (or cockles and oysters if they're by the sea!).

There's several more I can think of but these should be your players first stopping points for Mortal influence!

Kindred Specific

Here are some Kindred-specific ways to get influence in Mortal society during the Enlightenment period (this being OWOD, feel free to get ridiculous and gonzo with it!):

Ghouling

  • Find a person of note in the world and Ghoul them. Be they a scholar, politician, merchant, activist, military officer, doctor, engineer, socialite or artist. Once Ghouled, they'll do pretty much anything you ask, short of outright diabolicalness (and even that can be fixed...).

  • Have them join debates on the sides most favourable to your agenda, use this to push ideologies on the people in a time where any one idea could spread to become the way forward out of the chaos (Brujahs!)

  • They can write papers or books to distract Mortals from the reality of the undead that walk among the living through "skeptical inquiries" (You can almost guarantee a Tremere will be doing this!)

  • Found cults of the occult obfuscated in pseudo-science that implore the wealthy and influential to give themselves over to the mysteries of cult in order get even more wealth and attain even more influence, all the while empowering your Kindred further as a godlike figure (Ventrues, Toreadors, Setites, even Tzimisce and Tremere all do well here)

  • Infiltrate the royal court and lay rumours, gossip and heresies about opponents and their entourages -- maybe even provide convenient "evidence" to the right eyes. Watch as your PC's rivals (maybe the other PCs perhaps?) find themselves investigated for treason, their businesses shut down by royal decree, their cronies gaoled and their plans ultimately foiled

Embracing

You're right in supposing that it's a bad idea for noteable peoples to be Embraced -- too much attention. Do the time-honored classic strategy of Embracing -- at most -- rising stars in Mortal world or, better yet, Mortals who are good at what they do and show immense talent but haven't been "discovered" yet.

Remember to ask permissions to Embrace. ESPECIALLY in this time period! You'll get slack in the modern nights but pre-1990's default setting, it's a really bad idea (or not, depending on your GM -- assume it's really, really bad...)

Also, keep in mind who you Embrace. The wrong kind of person will most likely irk those in power once they become known in Kindred society. Larger populations will delay this but eventually your PCs will be held accountable (if this is a setting in which Embracing NPCs is a thing). Foreigners, commoners, criminals etc... all will earn the ire of particularly snooty Cammies.

Misc

Remember, in this time period, most Kindred were brought up in a post-feudal world so those old-time traditions still hold weight and inform social custom and tradition, except it's now an aristocracy that holds the true power not the king solely. And church and state is a thing, so having fingers in both pies will pretty much solidify your position between both increasingly secular and religious Kindred. Embrace in both camps and help secure your allies' positions by having them do the same.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer, but the salon part should be clarified. In modern America the word is mostly associated with Beauty Salons. In the Renaissance it was a gathering of intellectuals and sometimes held in an individual's estate. While somewhat more associated with ladies than men, both genders participated. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Aug 25 '17 at 22:32
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This is explained in the proper game. It depends on the situation, but you should remember that during the French revolution the Anarchist Vampire Revolution happened. So they are connected.

As in any other age, vampires use their powers and influence over people who can make a difference. It is not so strange to imagine that Robespierre was a Ghoul or was found and helped by vampires. That way they can control their actions. Even Robespierre ending at the guillotine could have been a maneuver by another vampire.

Even though the vampires try to hide themselves, even if they are "famous" it is not so strange that people during a revolution use the night as a cover, I think...

All is up to your imagination and your common sense.

Vampires always need to interact with the humans for pleasure and for blood. It is natural for them to care for humans. But you can control people in many different ways:

  • Money
  • Threats
  • Presence
  • Domination
  • Blood
  • Embrace him or by promise of doing so
  • Etc...

So give it a thought.

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It seems like you want manipulation of the masses by vampires to be an important theme in your campaign, which both fits the World of Darkness and that historical period perfectly. Part of the fun and challenge of it for the Storyteller is to come up with credible motivations, values and psychological background for the manipulators, and I think a creative way that they influence the human world to their profit should naturally follow from there.

If you can't realistically make leading historical figures of that time vampires, figure out which older kindred could possibly want to manipulate the human population through them. For instance, Robespierre is known to have admired and praised Sparta among other democratic city-states. An ancient Greece embraced cainite could dwell in the city and have inspired the revolutionary leader to participate in toppling royalty and establishing the rule of a form of democratic, yet brutal government. On the other side of the fence, a nobility-born royalist cainite (Ventrue?) could support and propagate the ideas of dissentive revolutionaries in an attempt to undermine Robespierre and make the Revolution crumble from the inside.

How would they achieve that? A constant throughout VtM material is that many non-Sabbat kindred are reluctant to direct means of coercion on humans (violence, undiscerning use of Domination/Presence, ghouling, etc.), preferring more subtle ways to control them. It is all the more likely to be true of 18th century Parisian vampires living in a world of intellectual effervescence and raffiné salons. Just because the human revolutionaries deal in bloodbaths, torture and chain public executions doesn't mean their dark sponsors have to resort to the same means.

The power of ideology expressed through books, theatre plays and public debate should not be underestimated in that regard. After all, the siècle des Lumières is filled with influential thinkers whose theories started off numerous concrete political movements. As PrometheanVigil suggested, salons are places vampires could use to make ideas sink in and instil calls to action, possibly, but not necessarily, with the help of mental Disciplines. A powerful kindred could have plotted their way into becoming the éminence grise that a revolutionary regularly turns to for political advice in secret meetings at night. There was also a growing interest for science at that time. A vampire talented in a scientific field could leverage their knowledge to gain access to a person of power or influence the population in a certain way (curing a whole district from a mortal disease would certainly get you some attention and credit), etc.

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