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Context: This question refers to gaining Merits and Backgrounds (Advantages) after the campaign has started, long after character generation has been done.

In older versions of Vampire the Masquerade, my GMs made us pay experience points to for some Advantages, but others were free and just based on roleplaying. Examples:

  1. You've done the Prince a huge favour. Gain 1 Status. No xp required.
  2. You've turned your best friend into a ghoul. No xp required.
  3. You've decided you really want the Crack Driver merit. Cut scene about you on an advanced & defensive driving course. Pay the xp cost.
  4. You have built up your Herd. Explain how to the GM and pay the xp cost.

What's the situation with buying new Advantages or improving old ones in VTM 5th edition? Pay for everything? GM decides?

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On page 180 of the Vampire 5th Edition Core book, the sidebar on "Gaining and Losing Advantages" lays out the game's stance on it:

Events during the chronicle can change a character’s Advantage and Flaws, especially Backgrounds. A Haven can burn down, an Ally can turn on you if you betray them, or the cops can gun down a Retainer for no reason at all. Conversely, by desperate quest or clever machination you can acquire an Advantage; the dots fluctuate along with your character’s fortunes.

The basic rule is this: a character should be able to get back, or at least replace, lost Advantages that have been gained by spending experience points or during character creation. If something is gained without the equivalent expenditure of experience points, it should be temporary at best.

Example: Katya has brought a number of gullible mortals under her heel, roughly the equivalent of a couple of dots of Allies. As long as she doesn’t solidify her acquisition with experience points, these allies will likely only be available this story.

So, you can use your ghoul or the acclaim of the Prince for a while without paying, but expect to lose them unless you sink in their value in XP.

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