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Swimmers of the StyxEdit
You think yourself a big fish in the ocean? Whelp, you have yet to know the sea, much less master it.
Water is life. Blood is life. The Swimmers skirt the line between land and sea; between nomadic and sedentary, they draw strength from the sea and go wherever the waves take them. Legends speak of mermaids, krakens, even today of giant squids and other monsters that inhabit the uncharted oceans depths, many of these legends have their roots in these elusive kindred. The Swimmers of the Styx, as they came to be known in ancient nights, are among the few groups of kindred that regularly travel the waterways of the world, albeit in many different ways.
As their name suggest, the Swimmers travel by swimming the seas and rivers, often relying on their superhuman endurance to travel the long voyages. However, they don’t only swim as humans, more often than not they adopt the forms of the Earths oldest and most successful predators: sharks, (small) whales, and even Octopi or Dolphins. Swimmers spend their nights traveling the world, often feeding on marine life, though they do enjoy feeding from sailors at sea or sampling mortals that live by the shore when traveling the coast or a river.
Though they take particular joy in swimming and traveling under their own power, there has been a growing movement within the Swimmers to use boats, yachts, and at one time galleons to bolster their efforts. The advantages to doing so are manifold, ships provide travel during the day (provided there’s a loyal captain or crew, of course), safe rest, and ready feeding. The Swimmers even garnered an image of piracy in many domains from kindred travelers and ghouls who only saw this one aspect of them. Interestingly, most Swimmers continue to prefer their solitary endeavor to using ships or piracy, leaving that to more social and materialistic kindred.
Here there be Dragons.
All it takes to become a Swimmer of the Styx is a little grace in the water, a bit of skill with Protean, and most importantly: the will to travel the world. Swimmers accept kindred from all clans, though for natural reasons Gangrel make up the vast majority of the covenant. When potential Swimmers from another clan seek membership they might face some stigma based on their clan or covenants actions against the Gangrel, or the Swimmers, but provided the she has the skills required only the most antagonistic of clan/covenant relationships would bar entry.
Being introduced into the covenant is far from a formal affair with oaths, secrets, and ceremony; rather it is usually a few simple tests to determine the ‘guppies’ skill at swimming, survival, and (sometimes) Protean. If the guppy shows potential then their mentor will take them on for some months or years, and teach them whatever skills, Disciplines or lore they will need to take to the sea on their own, be it by swimming or sailing.
Membership by ClanEdit
Gangrel: The Savages make up the bulk of the Swimmers membership, and with good reason. Traditionally a clan covenant, the Swimmers require a certain wanderlust and skill at Protean to make good headway in their trips. The Swimmers aren’t ones to boast, but the widespread nature of clan Gangrel may be in part due to the Swimmers. There are some rumors that there may be a bloodline of Savages that spawned alongside the covenant, who discovered the merits most Swimmers use.
Daeva: Surprisingly, the succubi are one of the best represented clans in the covenant. Those who truly savor Swimming, the sea, and exploring make excellent Swimmers. Their disciplines also allow them great leeway in their wandering, and more than one seaman wooed by ‘Mermaids’ whose songs compelled sailors to their doom may have in fact met a roving School of Daeva Swimmers with the Partial Transformation devotion.
Mekhet: As one of the oldest and most widespread clans, the Mekhet share a small but prominent role in the Swimmers history. Though few in number within the covenant, the Mekhet have been faring the seas as long as carracks and longboats have existed, for those who wanted a more secure way to get around, one free of the dangers of piracy, storm, hunger and exposure, the Swimmers presented a tempting opportunity. Few can match the Mekhet for sheer skill at swimming or their amazing discoveries (More than a few shadows have discovered old ships, artifacts, and treasure near the ocean floor.
Nosferatu: The Haunts are perhaps the second most numerous clan among the Swimmers, and they are regarded with a mixture of awe and fear, for the Haunts are capable of acts of such grace and ferocity that mortal mariners continue sing about those old terrors. It’s rumored that a family of Haunts have encountered (and successfully mimicked with Protean!) nameless creatures from the deep. Often Haunts will inhabit river ways, swimming up and down stream like Salmon, and feeding as they go. It’s also suspected that families of Nosferatu Swimmers develop fins and other fishlike characteristics.
Ventru: The Lord’s presence in the covenant is quite small and has seen the most fluctuation in recent nights. Traditionally, Lords disdain the mercurial, and the sea is about as mercurial as you can get. However, some lords have chosen to exchange their thrones for a trident, becoming Lords of the Sea. More than a few Ventru pirates have plundered the seaways with ships crewed by loyal and cowed mortals. Indeed, the life of a pirate provided many opportunities for plentiful gold, vitae, and glory. In recent nights the Ventru are taking their role in the covenant in a new direction, becoming traders and transporters for and of kindred, a risky proposition but one fraught with rewards. If the Swimmers are to rise to prominence again, it will likely be thanks to the efforts of these mercurial lords.
Waters is life. Blood is life. The Covenant as a whole holds to very few hard and fast rules, espousing more a way of unlife than a set of ideals. Nonetheless, when Tidings swim together or new Swimmers are trained, Myrmidons and mentors teach not only the means of surviving the voyage but of existing in harmony with it and their curse.
- Respect the sea, respect the curse: No one can master the sea, even veteran Tridents can be smashed to bits against reefs in a storm. Hubris is the downfall of the arrogant and proud kindred who think they are masters of the sea. Likewise, the curse of vampirism can never be truly bested, but like the sea one can learn to weather it, learn from it, and sometimes even harness it.
- Fight only for just causes: This is widely interpreted to mean that Swimmers and Myrmidons only involve themselves and fight in kindred affairs when the reason is an honorable one, or not at all. It does not preclude socializing, but it does imply that Swimmers should not dabble in the danse macabre.
- Do not let material possessions anchor you: Ownership and wealth are allowed, so long as they don’t own you. Material possessions and other trappings cloud the mind and bind the spirit. Merchant Swimmers often skirt a fine line with this
- The sea is pitiless, not cruel: Lastly, this tenet closely mirrors the Sanctums doctrine of terrorizing mortals while not being wantonly inhuman for it’s own sake. Swimmers are encouraged to do what they must in order to survive, without being needlessly bloody or cruel.
- You are but a drop in the ocean: Swimmers are a small part of a great whole, and the vastness of the seven seas defy the complete knowledge of any one kindred. As such, Swimmers must endeavor not to close their minds and continue to learn from the sea and hidden secrets.
The view from the outsideEdit
The Swimmers are the dwindling remains of a once great Covenant, as such many Swimmers prefer to call themselves Unbound (for in many ways, they truly are), and there are even some that see their lives and training as Swimmers not as a focus for their requiem, but a pastime or dual aspect that need not be shared with others. As such, a surprising number of Swimmers have been joining other Covenants and claiming that they are swimmers 'on the side' or to better serve their covenant as emissaries. To the old guard, these Swimmers are seen with a mixture of pity and melancholy, they understand that their tide is ebbing and that their credo of freedom does not in fact disallow such arrangements (though they are frowned upon). Still, the elder Tridents lament the passing of the good old nights, though some see it as a possibility to strengthen their Covenant by exposing their ideals to land locked kindred.
The Carthian Movement: The Carthians have only a basic understanding of the Swimmers, appreciating their nonhierarchical nature and freedom from oppressive old traditions, while failing to understand that same wanderlust and frowning on their inability to ‘stick with it’ and help reform old domains. That said, the Carthians see much potential in converting these wandering kindred to spread the Carthian message to other domains. In their own eyes though, Swimmers are already 'living' the life, and few see reason to take up the Carthian banner.
The Circle of the Crone: The Acolytes hold the Swimmers in high esteem, despite their lack of spiritual focus they embody several of the Acolytes principles, living with the sea, leading requiems full of trials and tribulations, and exploring their connection to the natural world. More than a few sea cults to Tethis or other sea deities exist, and many can count Swimmers in their number.
The Invictus: To the Invictus, Swimmers are at best transient nuisances, and at worst slippery troublemakers. There are some Invictus who seek to control the Swimmers, seeing in them a myriad of political opportunities (Out of town guns, couriers, possible influence over trade) but to their disdain they can rarely offer anything a Swimmer wants, and when they can gain some form of foothold, it is often transitive and a one time arrangement. For these reasons, there are few kindred who concurrently serve both covenants, it’s far more common to see ‘defectors’ that switch sides completely, either out of a discontent for the immutable or a desire for stability.
The Lancea Sanctum: To the Annointed, the Swimmers are romanticized to a degree: noble savages that do gods work where kindred fear to tread, spreading fear and gods will to remote places. On the other hand, Priests are rarely able to create relationships or dialogues with Swimmers that last long enough to convince the Swimmer to accept Longinus into his unbeating heart. Regardless, Anointed Swimmers are not uncommon, sometimes serving as proselytizers, and even lay Swimmers carry small fragments of the testament with them on their travels.
The Ordo Dracul: The Ordo views the Swimmers mostly as atavisms or objects of study, and occasionally might engage in a dialogue to learn news from distant shores or to discover some insight they might have gleaned into the kindred condition. For their part, Swimmers have a hard time understanding how someone can cloister themselves for decades or centuries at a time, and prefer to maintain a comfortable distance from the prying eyes of Dragons.
Organization: Tidings of SwimmersEdit
The Swimmers are not prone to rigid social hierarchies, much preferring a sort of fluid organization determined on a one on one basis. Nonetheless there is a certain ‘clique’ sense surrounding and permeating the Swimmers, considering they seldom garner esteem from outside their ranks, and likewise interact only fleetingly with the kindred establishment in a given city they visit.
Cities seldom host more than a few Swimmers at any one time, but when three or more are in any one place, they are collectively known as a [b]Tiding[/b]. This ominous collective noun relates to old superstitions that Swimmers bring bad luck and are omens of change and turmoil wherever they go. Swimmers usually live solitary lives and travel the waves alone, but it’s not uncommon to see a sire and a Tiding of his childer explore a coast, nor a coterie of young Swimmers flock together for mutual protection. These associations are often temporary arrangements, lasting only until the young are old enough to make their own way. When individual Swimmers run into each other, they will often group together for no greater reason than to share news, tales, and enjoy a respite from the usual solitude.
Though somewhat meritocratic in nature, leadership of a given school can be contested and decided by a physical challenge, and among the kindred in this group such fights are a terrible sight to see, demonstrating the epic strength the contestants have learned from the Sea and the kindred curse. These contests are usually to first blood or until an opponent yields, though when tempers run high final death becomes likely. These contests are usually held in deep water, and are no-holds barred with contestants using whatever powers and animal forms they can muster. Sometimes races or challenges (such as searching the sea bed for a particular artifact) are issued in lieu of physical challenges, particularly when both contestants are on amicable terms.
Among these seafaring kindred, Status is a fluid thing based on: Age, ability, reputation, and sea lore. The covenant as a whole doesn’t place much value in Status, and relationships are more often established on an individual basis with Status acting as a tertiary concern. That said, Swimmers will often speak reverently in awed whispers of ancient Tridents and young Myrmidons alike, who conquered beasts of the deep, pirated the Caribbean or made some fantastic discovery at sea. Swimmers with a high status can often convene Tidings (albeit it may take weeks, months, or years to get find specific kindred) and establish trade routes or direct messenger networks.
History: Early NightsEdit
“Lo let the night be solitary, let no joyful cry be heard in it. Let them curse it who curse the day who are ready to awake the Leviathan”, Book of Job 3:8
Begun in nights out of memory, the Swimmers rose some time after the emergence of clan Gangrel. It is their signature discipline that allowed this group to blossom, and travel the world like a message in a bottle, bearing a deadly curse inside. Many trace the Covenants origins to the myth of Achilles and his bathing in the river Styx. It is said that the mighty Achilles was bathed in the waters of the river Styx by his mother, Thetis, and rendered immortal and invulnerable to all weapons, save for his heel where his mother held him when immersed. Old Tridents tell the tale of Selagus, an old Gangrel who witnessed Thetis bathe the young Achilles. The story goes that after Thetis had left with the child, old Selagus went into the river and completely immersed himself in the water, believing that his cursed undead state would protect him from drowning and thus allow him full immortality and invincibility. Unknown to Selagus, the Styx affected mortals, gods, and monsters in different ways. Water grants life, cleanses sin, yet the river Styx separates the dead from the living, and no living creature may touch it and remain the same. To a kindred, between life and death, the water of the Styx had a unique effect: it granted him a part of the resilience that Achilles gained, and a measure of it’s own mutability, but it also took with it the restfulness of permanence, taking him to extremes and filling Selagus with a terrible wanderlust that compelled him to follow water and be immersed in it. To this night, there are stories of ancient Swimmers who are now so cursed, and who are loathe to set foot on land, or spend longer there than necessary.
The Swimmers once enjoyed a much large membership, as well as a great deal more power and prestige in the nights when the sea lanes were huddled close to coasts, and exploration was fraught with promise and danger. They traveled the length and breath of the Mediterranean, explored the seas north of Europe, and drifted down the coasts of Africa. There was a time when they were the kindred to go to to deliver messages and find out information from far off lands. In recent centuries the opening of safe trade routes, and open travel upon the sea has caused a decrease in its membership as well as the piracy many associated with the group. Such is their sad state that they no longer enjoy status as a covenant, and are at best treated as nomadic Unaligned, and at worst as wandering troublemakers.
History: A Tiding of MyrmidonsEdit
In nights long past the Swimmers had a second purpose, one far less passive than mere travelers, they served as bodyguards and mercenary soldiers to whichever kindred could rouse their passions. After immersing himself in the Styx, Selagus felt indebted to Thetis and by extension Achilles for his newfound prowess. While submerged the current carried him away deeper into Hades, and after emerging he had a long journey to the mortal world. By the time he found Achilles again the Trojan War had ended, and Achilles was dead. His debt unfulfilled, Selagus traveled deep underwater and offered his condolences to Thetis, she bade him to honor her son in whatever way he saw fit, and so he made a vow to her: that his children would (like hers) war only for just causes and honor. So as he embraced childer and his lineage grew, he taught them to leave the affairs of other mortals and kindred, and war only for causes that are honorable (such as restoring a prince to his rightful throne). He did however make a distinction between to war and fight, much like that between manslaughter and first degree murder. He did not forbid his childer from all fighting, especially that required to feed and survive, just from premeditated campaigns based on anything but honorable grounds.
Some say he gathered those of his childer with the most discipline and strength, and trained them to fight as the Myrmidons fought for Achilles: united, honorably, selflessly, and with total loyalty. He called these childer Myrmidons, in honor of Achilles’ own soldiers. There are still legends in a few old domains bordering the sea of the terrible might of the Tidings of Myrmidons, and some whisper that if called, the Swimmers of tonight could still assemble into a devastating fighting force, one that cannot be struck back at any more than a storm.
History: Merchant PrincesEdit
As nautical technology progressed and coracles were replaced with carracks and ships with sails, the Covenant faced it’s first of the modern challenges. Kindred are slow to change and distrust travel, so these new advents of the kine were at first little trouble to the Swimmers, but within centuries they saw their services as couriers and warriors begin to slack in the face of these new marvels that united the world. However the nature of the Swimmers is tied to water and blood, making them powerful, ancient and most importantly, mutable. Before long young and enterprising Swimmers found ways to co-opt these sailing ships to their advantage. Be it by merging with their wooden hulls to gain safety and travel during the day, or by captaining (or controlling the captain) of these sailing ships and using the crew as vessels. Members of the then new Roman clan of Ventru was particularly good at this last form, often conditioning entire crews to serve them (or at least ignore them) and raising their otherwise marginal profile in the covenant.
The fall of the Camarilla did not destroy the Swimmers, but it did weaken them. With the fall of the Roman Empire their trade networks fell through and they reverted almost entirely to their old mode of wandering, with only a few hold outs as pirates. To this night, there remains a shadow of this piracy in whichever sea is lawless. Colonization of the Americas brought the swimmers to these shores (any Swimmers that made it that far beforehand were never heard from again), and brought a slow rise to their numbers. In present nights the Covenant is still but a shadow of its former self, Swimmers don’t proselytize and the advent of even ever faster and safer modes of transport has once again dropped what little recruitment they had. Nonetheless there are more than a few enterprising young swimmers who unknowingly follow in the footsteps of their trading forefathers, tentatively establishing trading companies, underwater recovery or construction, and personal courier services. It’s anyone’s guess whether they will succeed in restoring the Covenant to it’s former glory, but as more than a few Tridents will attest, “The tides wax and wane with the moon, so too will our fortunes”.
Bloodlines, titles, and ConceptsEdit
Charybdis: A Gangrel bloodline with prodigious appetites, it’s rumored they have some control over water.
Scylla: A Nosferatu bloodline of sea monsters. They have a protean as a clan discipline, and replace obfuscate with Animalism, they have a unique devotion ‘Form from the Deep’, that combines Nightmare and Protean.
- Trident – Reserved for elder or particularly skilled Swimmers, often used as an honorific. (I heard Trident Aurelius is heading this way!)
- Mermaid – Usually reserved for Daeva Swimmers who prey on mariners. Merman is also used for males, though less commonly.
Captain – Used for the leader of a school of Swimmers.
- Myrmidon – A less frequent nickname for Swimmers, sometimes used interchangeably. Once used to refer to the more martial Swimmers that fought in wars.
- Boatman (of the river Styx) – A nickname for Swimmers who use boats in their journeys, may also apply to pirates.
- Tiding – A group of three or more Swimmers.
- Guppy – A neonate or new member of the covenant, often used in jest. (Hehe, look at that Guppy! He should know better than to get too close to a coral reef!)
Former Olympic swimmer, pirate, courier, terror from the deep, underwater explorer, oceanographer, archaeologist, Man eating mermaid.
Merits and FlawsEdit
- Will of the Waves
- Cost: 00
- Prerequisites: Protean 2 (Water)
- Effect: Resting in moving water like rivers or the ocean, invigorates the character, they recover 1 WP in addition to that gained from resting.
- Blood of the Sea
- Cost: 000
- Prerequisites: Protean 4 (Predatory sea animal)
- Effect: When in animal form, any fish or vertebrate sea creatures that are ingested whole can be efficiently drained of blood, providing a 1/3 more vitae than normal (rounding down). Food thus eaten has to be digested for 30 minutes per BP, then has to be regurgitated.
- Heart of the Sea
- Cost: 0000
- Prerequisites: Blood of the Sea, Animalism 3
- Effect: Characters with a high blood potency find themselves limited in what they can eat to gain sustenance, for old Swimmers this can be particularly hard hitting since it limits their mobility. For BP 3-6, only Dolphins, sharks, or other creatures with large brains provide any sustenance, at BP 6+ no sustenance can be gained.
The Devotion Partial Transformation (Protean 4, Vigor 1) also sees a lot of use by the Swimmers, often using it to create a shark or fish tail to aid in Swimming, while retaining the torso of a human.
- Land Sickness
- Cost: None, Flaw.
- Effect: The character is unused to staying on land and in one place for long periods of time. Each week after the first the character spends in a city incurs a -1 penalty to all social rolls (can be ignored for a scene by spending a WP), and each week after the fifth the character must make an extended Resolve + Composure roll vs. the number of weeks spent on land to avoid returning to the sea post haste.
- Example: James has decided to stay in Vancouver for a few years to sell some artifacts he’s found, and hopefully find someone to embrace. After the seventh week in the city, the effects of Land sickness are becoming unbearable, with every passing day he yearns to return to wandering the waves. He rolls Resolve + Composure (7) to resist leaving the city vs. 7 (the number of weeks he’s been living in Vancouver), he rolls 3 successes on the first day, 2 on the second and 2 on the third. He’s managed to resist the siren call of sea, for the moment at least.
This flaw can be overcome by either spending 10 weeks on land without returning to the sea (being held against one’s will counts), or by getting counseling.