(excerpt from The Vampire Players Guide pages 114-116)
The Rite of Prestation Vampires gain Status over others through an elaborate ritual of favors and boons called prestation. Prestation is based on the simple premise that when a vampire receives an important gift or favor, he is beholden to its bestower and honor bound to return the favor. The greater the favor, the greater the debt. Until he pays back the obligation in kind, he is in the debt of the bestower, who has the right to call the debt due at any time. The bestower can call due the debt by requesting a service up to the size of the original favor, and sometimes more. On the surface this all appears little more than the straightforward commerce common to mortals. However, this polite façade conceals a deadly truth. Vital issues of Status and position are at stake.
By accepting the boon, the receiver automatically loses Status. In some cases, merely asking for a favor causes the vampire to drop in Status. The bestower in turn gains Status by granting the boon (it is, after all, a demonstration of power). The Status gained is commensurate with the magnitude of the favor, and the Status of the vampire aided. Helping a neonate learn to survive provides less Status than saving the prince from certain destruction or embarrassment. The bestower rises in Status in comparison to the receiver until the favor is returned and the balance of Status restored.
As a result of this curious system, many Kindred are not eager to call their favors due, especially when the one to whom they granted the favor is an eminent or influential member of the community (a truly perverse example of how twisted relations between vampires can become). They instead leave the beneficiaries of their largess to twist slowly in the wind, unable to regain their former Status. A clever Kindred can milk the respect gained through prestation for far more than the original favor was worth. He can keep other vampires in their place, and can even lord it over higher-Status vampires.
If a compensatory favor is not requested immediately, the receiver remains in the debt of the bestower. He cannot act against the bestower, and must maintain a courteous façade at all times. Meanwhile, the bestower can lord it over the receiver. However, the bestower must be careful to avoid giving the receiver the opportunity to cancel the debt by incurring a like debt to the recipient.
In terms of the Status rules, the giver is considered to be of the same Status as the one who owes the favor. While this change in the Status rules only affects the bestower and the receiver (allowing a Lick to treat as a peer the individual who formerly “outranked” him), others may pick up on it as well, and the character’s overall Status might be affected. Though this is normally only temporary, sometimes it can be made permanent through astute and clever ploys and moves.
In general, how prestation affects Status is completely up to the Storyteller. Play it how he calls it.
The Scope of the Debt Prestation takes many different forms. Saving a life carries a great debt. Not only does the vampire saved owe an immense favor, but all vampires who depend on the saved, or owe him favors, are suddenly indebted to the savior. Saving the prince’s life means all the vampires in a city owe the savior a debt (though, in most cases, only a very small one). Defeating an enemy causes all those threatened by that enemy to owe a favor in return. Protecting a vampire from being unmasked or discovered by mortals is worth a great favor. Helping out in the nightly course of a vampire’s business is not worth much, unless the vampire desperately needs the help.
Prestation works in minor ways as well, especially within clans. If one vampire throws a great party, the guests all feel an obligation to reciprocate, and always feel somewhat humbled in the presence of the party-giver, who is entitled to feel a certain smug self-righteousness until her guests reciprocate. The party-giver cannot place herself above a high-ranking vampire, nor will her slight prestige boost accord her major favors from all her guests, but she can expect them to act slightly deferential and respectful around her. Because of prestation, small services are a great way for a neonate to ingratiate herself with her betters, though it may earn her the contempt of her peers (who will accuse her of bootlicking).
Granting a Boon The ability to grant a boon is a demonstration of power. Thus many Kindred constantly search for ways to provide “assistance” to their fellows. Conversely, the inability to grant a requested boon can cause a serious loss of Status. Kindred are often offered favors by others and, when this occurs, there can be a number of different reactions. It is dangerous to accept another’s boon, especially from those of lower Status, as one never knows when the debt might be called due. Moreover, once the boon is given, its recipient has no say in what will be requested in return. There are three different ways in which a vampire can react when a boon is offered. They are: 1. Acceptance: The vampire accepts the boon, and is bound by prestation to the giver. 2. Refusal: The vampire immediately and forthrightly refuses the gift of the boon. This is often a case of one-upmanship. The vampire has just publicly announced that he does not need the other’s boon. The other may lose Status because of the humiliation. 3. Negation: The character refuses the gift of the boon, but in such a way so as to avoid insult (which can be very difficult) – “Only that I may be of further service to you, my prince.” By so doing, the vampire may gain Status. Returning a Boon
A debt can be voided in a number of ways. It all depends on what the bestower wants from the indebted vampire, and when she wants it. Of course, if a vampire can find a way to return the favor before being asked, the debt can be nullified on the vampire’s own terms. The following are five different ways by which a boon can be returned:
1. Trivial: The bestower asks a trivial favor in return, such as the other’s presence at a party. The nature of the debt will affect whether a boon is trivial or substantial. Asking for a trivial boon will gain the asker some minor Status, for being able to grant the boon in the first place and for requesting such a minor repayment. 2. Minor: The bestower asks for compensation that is easily within the debtors powers. 3. Major: The bestower asks for a compensatory favor that is within the ability of the indebted to grant, but may cause the indebted some difficulty. Such a boon must be met, regardless of the cost, but may gain the (formerly) indebted some Status upon completion. 4. Blood: The favor asked exceeds the debt owed by an overwhelming degree. If the boon requested is too ridiculous, then the indebted may refuse without loss of Status, or may agree, thus causing the bestower to incur a prestation debt in turn. 5. Life boon: Granted only in the most extreme cases – usually when a Kindred saves the existence of another without having any formal obligation to do so. Allies don’t owe each other life boons; such a debt is owed only under exceptional circumstances. A life boon cannot usually be repaid through multiple lesser boons.
Oathkeeping Most Kindred willingly adhere to the restraints of prestation. The whole idea of prestation hinges on whether or not the receiver publicly acknowledges the debt. This is a signal to others, demonstrating whether the receiver plays by the rules or not. Those who do not play by the rules are distrusted (“Your word is not good enough for me!”) and may lose Status. In some cases, the receiver may (however reluctantly) be forced to acknowledge the debt, no matter how said debt weakens him. For example, if a neonate risks Final Death for a prince, that prince had better reward such behavior if he does not want to be humiliated.
Oathbreaking Prestation is not enforced by any code other than the code of honor. A vampire is no more bound by prestation ties than by any other promises she makes. No one will kill her for oathbreaking, but the friends and clan of the aggrieved vampire may make her life difficult. Those bound to the aggrieved vampire by ties of prestation area also expected to snub and shun the vampire who refuses to acknowledge the debt.
Status lost by an offender will be considerable, but will vary according to the circumstances and the number of individuals who side with the offender. The offender will usually lose at least one Status point, and may well lose many more.
Sometimes a vampire will swear vengeance against an oathbreaker. Ironically, those with great Status, like the prince, are the least likely to try to squirm out of returning a favor. They stand to lose a lot of Status if they break their word, and Status is what helps them hold onto their power.
Refusing to honor a boon generally enrages vampires, causing them to strike back with all their ability. Refusing to honor a debt to a minor vampire may earn the oathbreaker only personal revenge, but shafting an elder can provoke attacks from all the members of the elder’s clan within the city. The injured party is still not allowed to kill the offender, but he can make unlife very difficult for the offender – sabotaging his feeding grounds, exposing his covert plots and attacking his ghouls.
Ostracism The strongest revenge is ostracism. This punishment is reserved for powerful acts of betrayal. If the wronged vampire reports the oathbreaking to the other Kindred, and makes his case well, he may persuade his own clan, the other clans and sometimes the offender’s clan to ostracize the oathbreaker.
The offending vampire is shunned by the Kindred, and loses Status with her peers. No one will work with her or help her. She is a pariah until she makes full restitution. No one will trust her. In tightly knit vampiric circles, ostracism can be worse than a Blood Hunt.
(excerpt from The Mind’s Eye Theatre: the Requiem) Disputes and Formalities Kindred who owe each other any sort of debt often seek to formalize it by having a Harpy record the type of boon owed, which is then made known to the Harpy (or Harpies) of any city where the Kindred in question intend to reside for an extended period. This procedure protects the vampires involved as the Harpy acts as arbiter. When disputes arise, the Harpy decides whether a particular service is appropriate to repaying a favor and can act (using her status points, see p. 286) to punish an offending party. A Harpy usually acts to compel those who refuse to repay boons owed, but can also restrain those who demand service out of proportion with what they are owed. Kindred holding or owing boons can petition the Prince in defiance of a Harpy, although doing so is usually only likely to lead to complication or embarassment. Harpies and Princes cannot arbitrate boons that they hold or owe; those matters are supervised by another Harpy. The boons of blood-hunted Kindred are voided when the blood hunt is either called off or they are destroyed.
Transferring Boons A Kindred who holds a boon (to whom a favor is owed) may transfer it to another Kindred. Such a change is usually done to repay a debt owed to the recipient or to incur a debt from him, but can also be a particularly vicious means of bringing someone into disrepute. Domains that do not honor boons are considered disreputable, usually held by revolutionaries or the unaligned. If a Kindred owing boons is destroyed or sent to torpor for a very long time without having been guilty of a vampiric crime, the holders of the boons may justifiably petition the Harpies to transfer those boons to any Kindred who put the unfortunate vampire down.