It is the 131st year in the reign of the Red Emperor, May He Live Ten Thousand Lifetimes. From smog-bound London to the furthest reaches of the Undying Empire, humanity lives and dies at the pleasure of the Vampire Houses. They rule not from the shadows but openly and proudly, and they are served by many thousands of aspirants who crave the bite that brings not death but life, cold and eternal.
Vampirism does not extinguish the desires of those it infects; rather it heightens the vices and appetites, and those who were already covetous and greedy become more so with the long passage of time. The Great Houses have fabulous treasures in their safe rooms, and many envious eyes, both living and undead, are set upon these marvels.
Bloodheist is a new tabletop RPG zine I’ve been working on for a few months. The set-up is pretty simple: Dracula won, and the world he built is ruled by immortal, squabbling vampire clans. You play as a gang of thieves, hired by a vampire to steal a valuable object from a rival vampire. Basically it’s The Usual Suspects meets Bloodborne.
Gameplay-wise it takes inspiration from Free League’s Alien, Blades in the Dark and Trophy Dark, being a d6-based system where you build pools of dice and aim to roll at least one 6. Tonally I’m looking at Dishonoured, Bloodborne, Reservoir Dogs, and the ‘classic’ 2004 Van Helsing movie.
The zine isn’t release-ready yet, but I’ve been playtesting for a while and I’m feeling good about the system so far. Character generation is fast and fun, and people seem to immediately get the tone and what kind of PCs would fit into the world. I decided to share the basic rules and character gen here, so others can use the system if they desire.
A Bloodheist character is defined by a few details:
Skills – what do you know how to do?
Tools – what do you have that’s useful?
Background – where are you from?
Folly – what do you do under pressure? (This is blank when creating a character)
Doom – A scale that runs from 0-6. This measures how fucked you are.
Rituals – knowledge nobody was meant to have.
Base Dice – roll one light-coloured d6 (a Base Dice) to attempt a task where the outcome is uncertain.
- If you have a Skill or Background that is applicable to your task, add a second Base Dice to the roll.
- Add a third Base Dice if you have a Tool that is applicable to the task.
- Add another Base Dice if you get help from another character with an applicable Skill, Background or Tool.
Max in the pool is 3 Base Dice (4 with help).
Doom Dice – roll a dark-coloured d6 (Doom Dice) if you are putting yourself in physical danger to complete your task.
Add extra Doom Dice if
- Instructed to by your Folly
- Opposed by a Powerful Foe
- You are a Vampire in the presence of inimical objects.
There is no limit on how many Doom Dice can be rolled.
Success is determined by the highest single dice of either type:
1-3 is failure, things get worse.
4-5 is success with a twist or consequence.
6 is full success.
If any of your Doom Dice roll higher than all your Base Dice and higher than your character’s current Doom score, add 1 to your Doom score.
At three Doom, your Folly takes over. Roll on the Follies table to find out how your character reacts to their creeping sense of Doom.
At five Doom you can try to sabotage other characters to shift your awful fate to theirs – roll one Base Dice to do so. If the result is lower than your current Doom, lower your Doom by one and raise their Doom by one. Once you have hit five Doom you can try to sabotage as many times as you like.
At six Doom, your End is Near. The GM will decide how you meet your fate. Sometimes this will be obvious; if you are locked in mortal combat with a Vampire Prince, you will meet your end at their hands. However, the GM may also choose to roll on the Dooms table, and allow fate to select your most unusual fate. Characters who meet their Doom might survive the Heist, but they will eventually succumb nonetheless. Doom isn’t HP, it’s more like a measure of your luck and fate.
Human or Vampire?
1-4 = Human. You cannot fight a Vampire that is aware of your presence. You can only flee, hide, or use a Ritual against them.
5-6 = Vampire. You cannot enter a building uninvited. You cannot endure sunlight, blessed water, garlic, silver, or holy symbols. While in the presence of these abhorrent influences, all rolls are made with extra Doom Dice.
Backgrounds are intended to give some flavour to the character, and ensure that if two people roll up Murderers, they have some distinguishing features. They will likely grant a special Skill and Tool in the finished game but I haven’t written that part yet.
|1||House Ventricle||Vain bat-like fashionistas|
|2||House Bathos||Pretentious tick-like artists|
|3||House Lachrymose||Mournful leech-like poets|
|4||House Sanguine||Smug snake-like gourmands|
|5||House Pharynx||Insincere rat-like gossips|
|6||House Coagula||Coarse mosquito-like duelists|
Choose a Profession
Professions act as your character class, and define what kind of role you take in the heist. They give you three skills and three tools.
|1||Murderer||brawling, shooting, intimidating||sword-cane, pistol, manacles|
|2||Shadowjack||climbing, sneaking, pick-pocketing||ropes, lockpicks, dagger|
|3||Liesmith||lying, flattering, forging||disguise kit, forgery kit, counterfeit coins|
|4||Machinist||repairing, sabotaging, building||drill, crowbar, saw|
|5||Alchemist||dissolving, burning, exploding||acid, poison, bomb|
|6||Occultist||scrying, hexing, dispelling||wand, ritual skull, doom-free ritual|
4. Choose YOUR Rituals
Take an extra level of Doom for each starting Ritual your character knows. Occultists can take one Ritual without incurring Doom. Cast Rituals by rolling one Base dice and one Doom dice. They’re intended to function as flexible utility magic that comes with some inherent risks.
- Crimson Gate – draw a door in a wall with your blood. You can pass through it.
- Feral Shadow – your shadow detaches from your body. It will return within a hundred heartbeats to tell you what it has seen.
- Slumbering Mist – breathe out a white fog that sends nearby creatures to sleep.
- Corpse Puppet – touch a corpse on the forehead. It will rise and move as you command until your concentration is broken.
- Freezing Touch – your touch is cold enough to cause frostbite; it makes metal brittle.
- Call Vermin – vicious hungry rats burst from the earth where your blood falls and run amok.
- Vile Vines – where your blood falls, entangling red vines explode from the earth. They can snare your foes, barricade doors, or make sheer walls climbable.
- Devil’s Whisper – your voice, sinister and compelling, emanates not from your mouth but from another person or object you can see.
- Lethe’s Brew – you brew an unhallowed tea using your blood. The person who drinks it will forget the last ten minutes of their life.
- Midnight’s Cloak – the air around you becomes shockingly dark, as on a moonless night. The effect is fleeting, but will protect you from sunlight.
- Beguiling Breath – you breathe deeply into the ear of another being. They come to believe you are their good friend, and will act accordingly until someone directly asks them why they harbour this misconception.
- Bloody Gaze – you pull out your eyes and see instead with the weeping redness inside your sockets. You can see hidden things, forgotten things, and the secrets within the hearts of those around you. Make sure you keep your eyes somewhere safe so you can put them back in after.
That covers the basics. I’ll be posting some play reports this month to show how a typical Bloodheist session goes down. I’m still working on plenty of stuff: GM advice, heist generators, more vampire houses, and a system that gives players secret missions to carry out during the main heist. I also need to work out how character advancement is handled, since the only numerical stat you have is Doom.