Every once in a while, I get an itch I’ve just got to scratch. A little while ago, I had an idea that really just came out of the question "Are there any Mekhet bloodlines with Dominate?"
I asked the question, looked at the answers, and didn’t see anything that fit the character I was thinking about. So, I made one up myself.
Stand aside, little pawn. You block my view of the Queen’s rook.
They claim to be descendants of the king himself. They claim to be masters of a game so secret, even its players do not understand all its mysteries. They claim even the Masquerade is just a feint for a grander game; a game of their own making.
They claim much. But what is truth and what is a clever subterfuge? Master gamesmen or master conmen? Magicians or grifters? No one knows for certain.
The first Ardashiri made himself public in the mid-seventeenth century. The courts of France. Using the name “Adrente,” hidden behind a mask, the court was unclear of the kindred’s gender, let alone identity. The figure was first passed off as an elaborate prank… until another appeared in England claiming the same bloodline. Then, the courts of Russia. Italy. Portugal. All claiming the same lineage, all hinting at an intricate and invisible game.
Whatever they claimed, the bloodline became renown for their ability to remove enemies with elaborate plots, leaving no trace of their own participation. Never taking any action, always remaining in the shadows. Always the king, never the pawn.
The Ardashiri take their namesake from a third century Persian hero, founder of the Empire and presumed inventor of chess. However, like most of the bloodline’s claims, one must demonstrate a bit of skepticism. But then again, their claims may be true—if only in metaphor. An important note to make about the bloodline and an apt transition to their least guarded secret.
Centuries ago, the Ardashiri began what became known as “the Subtle Game.” Only the Ardashiri themselves know the rules, the players, the stakes. Not all Ardashiri play—some claim to have been removed or even refuse to play—but even even this may be an elaborate ruse. Without knowing the game itself, it is difficult to tell. And while the Ardashiri keep the Game to themselves, they do often involve others in its machinations… of course, without revealing the rules or meaning of the movements.
Many vampires mock the Ardashiri and their Game, dismissing both as nonsense: a prank for the rubes and gullible of kindred culture. But every ten years or so, a major event occurs suggesting the Chessmen may indeed be holding the strings of some sophisticated plot. But when all turn to the Ardashiri for confirmation… they say nothing.
A story about a Prince and an Ardashiri named Vannesh. The Prince went out of his way to discredit the Chessman. A year later, the Prince was undone by a convoluted chain of circumstances and coincidences. Removed from his throne, his allies turned against him, his enemies triumphant in every plan. And when the city turned to see if Vannesh was smiling… he only shrugged and walked away, no better or worse than where he stood a year before.
Similar stories fill the courts. Rumors and speculations, but no facts. No pure links. No evidence. Rumors and speculations. Just enough to earn the Ardashiri the kind of respect they expect.
Parent Clan: Mekhet
Covenant: The Chessmen do not cluster under any banner, utilizing any advantage they can. If there is advantage in the Circle, they join the Circle. If they find benefit under the banner of the Dragon, they join the Dragon. The same can be said for the rest. But the Chessmen are always highly reluctant to join any overt political or religious organization… unless it gives them what they need at the time.
Appearance: Reluctant to reveal their identities, the Ardashiri are almost always seen in masks. Elaborate or simple, an Ardashiri keeps every secret close to his heart. And, like everything else in their unlives, the Ardashiri use appearance for advantage. Intimidating and confusing enemies, seducing potential allies, terrifying the herd. How you appear is just a valuable weapon as a sword, gun, tooth or claw.
Haven: The Chessmen take a particular pride in their Havens. Mazes of secrets. Never content with a single room or a simple, indiscreet home, the Ardashiri build and build and build and build. One vampire made a joke that every Chessman was trying to recreate the Winchester Mystery House. After seeing what happened to him, no one ever made that joke again.
Background: As we said before, the Ardashiri only embrace those who bring potential to the Great Game. Military analysists, poker players and martial artists. Those who understand secrets, advantage and knowledge. When Ardashiri embrace new kindred—“pawns”—they are put through a grueling initiation. Those who survive are allowed to adopt the bloodline. Those who do not survive make way for new pawns.
Having survived initiation, every night of a Chessman’s night becomes devoted to the Great Game: a grand stratagem that the Ardashiri claim overshadows even the Masquerade. But the Game remains a mystery to all other kindred. A sacred vow of silence keeps even the rules invisible to a Chessman’s immortal cousins.
Character Creation: A Ardashiri character focuses less on physical or direct abilities and skills, but on elements that will put him out of the limelight and completely in command of those around him. A Chessman never makes a frontal attack, but arranges your doom from oblique angles. Fill your sheet with Allies, Contacts and other means to attack your foes. Disciplines such as Obfuscate and Celerity keep you out of sight. Auspex and Dominate are skeleton keys opening any box of secrets.
Bloodline Disciplines: Auspex, Celerity, Dominate, Obfuscate
Weakness: In addition to their normal Mekhet weakness, the Ardashiri must suffer an additional limitation. At the beginning of each game session, she rolls one die (draws one card). If the number is even, she is “on the board” and suffers no effect. If the number is odd, she is “off the board” and cannot re-roll (or re-draw) for “10 agains” for the rest of the evening.
Organization: No one is certain what organization the Ardashiri truly have. Perhaps they are a blood cult bound by secret rituals, or they may be nothing more than a loose confederation of clandestine conmen, using their skills and influence to create an illusion of power. No one can say for certain.
Concept: The Ardashiri only Embrace those they view as potential opponents in the Great Game. Yes, this means they Embrace potential enemies. Not even potential: just enemies. When Embraced, the young Mekhet has a certain amount of time to prove her worth. If she succeeds, she is brought into the bloodline. If she fails… she’s never heard from again.
The actual history of the Ardashiri bloodline has many possibilities. Because of its obsessive secrecy, little is known for certain. Much speculation, little facts. Here, we’ll go through what is known and what others speculate. When asking what is true about the bloodline, remember what Robert Wilson taught us: everything is true; even false things. Even things that contradict each other. While they are extremely secretive, the Chessmen do surrender “facts” about their bloodline from time to time. Whether these facts can be trusted or not is up for debate.
Facts first, then the speculation.
Fact: we know the bloodline first appeared in the seventeenth century.
Now that we’ve got the facts out of the way, let’s get on with the speculation.
If the rumors are to be believed, theirs is one of the most exclusive secret societies in kindred culture. No one really knows how many Ardashiri currently exist, but estimates put the number somewhere around twenty to thirty. A few have pointed out that every Ardashiri ever seen could be a single clever vampire (because they all wear masks, no one has ever seen an Ardashiri’s face).
The Ardashiri claim that not a single member of their bloodline has ever held the title of Prince, although that assertion is contradicted by the existence of at least three Princes claiming to be Chessmen. Their reigns were short and bloody and they disappeared shortly after the claim was made, but there they are. When pressed for an explanation, most Ardashiri just shake their heads and mutter something about “pawns.”
The most speculation on the Ardashiri focuses on their Game. A few details have leaked to the general kindred public, although these should be taken with the same dubious skepticism as anything surrounding this bloodline. A few claim to have been approached by Chessmen with a strange warning. “You are on the board,” they were told. Then, an extreme rash of incredible coincidences both fortunate and disastrous. Finally, the coincidences stop. When asked why, the Chessman says nothing except, “You are off the board.”
Some hypothesize “the Great Game” is actually an elaborate charade, the Chessmen scoring points for each sucker roped into the con. Few kindred express such thoughts in the open, especially if one of the Chessmen is present. But then again, how would you ever know one of them was present?
The Chessmen Pages
An anonymous journal found in a garbage dumpster outside a Masonic Lodge. The pages burned, smeared with mustard and blood. Hand-written, it detailed an initiation ritual. The word chessmen was circled many times. The document—now called The Chessmen Pages—drew a startling picture. A short excerpt:
twelve in a circle
staked buried ocean
mouth filled with limes?
hand tied to a book
book of secrets??? are they serious???
writing his name in the book listing his secrets
blood in a bowl everyone dri
That’s where the entry ends. The other pages are filled with inane nonsense. The daily tragic routine of a paranoid mortal who believed the government was responsible for all his own failures. Of course, those of the kindred community with a sense for puzzles immediately jumped on photocopies of The Chessmen Pages, finding all sorts of patterns and clues. The Chessmen themselves neither confirm nor deny any conclusions drawn from the document.
“On the Board”
The Chessmen pepper their language with game metaphors such as “stalemate,” “behind the eight ball,” and “captured pieces,” The most common reference is “on the board.” While kindred scholars have written many opinions about what this phrase actually means, no-one is entirely certain. All kindred wince at the mention, knowing some important significance is put upon them.
In game terms, an Ardashiri character can place another character “on the board.” He notifies the Storyteller, nominates the character and spends a Willpower point. For the rest of the evening, the character’s “10 agains” are not limited to only two draws no are his “1 agains” limited to two draws. The Ardashiri may not nominate another Ardashiri for this “benefit,” nor may he nominate himself. He may only place one character “on the board” per night.
I’m thinking about submitting them for play in the Cam Club. There are many on my friends list who have advice and comments I value. Please feel free to do so.