Good Conviction Examples
- Always Keep Your Sworn Word
- Only Kill in Self Defense
- My Own Survival Comes First
- Don’t Take From the Needy
- Do Not lie
- Protect Your Friends at All Costs
- Do Not Fight the Unwilling
- Harm is Justified if The Benefits Outweigh the Costs
- Never Snitch
- People Matter More Than Rules
- Don’t Stop Till the Job is Done
- Never Break a Deal
- Thou Shalt Not Torture
- Obey Authority
- And many more…
You have your dots placed. You’ve picked your specs and chosen your discipline abilities. Heck, you even have an ambition. Now it’s time to stare at the hardest empty box of them all… the convictions field.
Each character should have between one and three convictions, each paired to a touchstone. It sounds simple enough, until you start thinking about the details, the implications, the applications of each. We see a lot of convictions which would be, to be frank, stain city. We see others which are too permissive, and would seldom if ever award stains at all. We see a lot of convictions taken right out of the corebook; and honestly, we’ve found that in play, particularly in the large and loosely moderated sandbox setting of SbN, a lot of those convictions just don’t work well either.
So let’s start from the beginning. What even is a conviction? In game terms, a vampire’s “conviction” should be a moral imperative by which they live their unlife. This conviction, this moral imperative, in some way reminds them of some aspect of humanity which they prize. Following the convictions, therefore, keeps the vampire more human. Breaking the convictions? Leads to the beast taking more control.
But “moral imperative” here does not mean moral per se. It could be something positive, altruistic even, but a functioning and effective conviction can also be negative or even malicious in nature; humans do have darker sides while still remaining, at their core, human, and very different from the vampire’s predatory beast nature.
A good conviction is something which will come into play often enough to be relevant to the nightly life of the character, and something broad enough to apply in many different types of situations — without applying to all situations.
For example: “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” a conviction from the examples in the corebook, is often construed to mean literal neighbors, making it far too specific and unlikely to arise often enough to have a mechanical effect on the character’s progress through their nights. But if “neighbor” is construed to mean “my entire community,” it might well come into play too often, because it would apply to almost every single interaction the character would commonly have.
A good conviction is also something with a carefully calculated degree of specificity to its language. “Protect innocents from harm,” another corebook example, defines neither “innocents” nor “harm.” As feeding is itself harm, given its predatory nature, that would in effect mean that an ST could assign stains to a vampire every time they fed on someone they did not know 100% to be an innocent — nor even how to define what constitutes ‘innocence’ in the first place!
But that said, a good conviction should also not be laden down with “exceptions” clauses or “get out of jail free” stipulations. Try to avoid using “unless” or similar words/constructions; a conviction which reads something like “Offer aid to those in need unless they are bad people/don’t deserve aid” is a conviction providing too much wiggle room and ambiguity of application to specific situations. Equally so, a conviction such as “Always aid those who are desperately in need of it” has added a judgment call clause. Who defines the desperation level, after all?
A good conviction can both award stains to the character’s humanity and mitigate them. If a chronicle tenet is broken in the course of following a personal conviction, one or all of the awarded stains might be wiped away by the conviction.
For an example: If the chronicle has a tenet against murder, but your character has a conviction such as “Always act in aid of a coteriemate,” a murder committed in aid of a coteriemate might well award no stains. If, on the other hand, the character chose not to aid their coteriemate in this or even some other, more trivial way, a stain (or more) could be awarded by the ST.
And a good conviction ties very heavily into characterization. While it’s tempting to choose convictions straight from the book and call it done, convictions cut to the very core of who a character is and what they believe in, what drives their nights. Personalizing a conviction to create something which speaks to the history of the character, their upbringing or past experiences, can create a much more meaningful roleplaying experience. Think, as you write them, about why the character believes this. What experience in their past has led to forming this conviction? What aspect of their personality drives or shapes this belief system?
There are many considerations, from characterization to specificity to applicability. Reflect, as you write them, in what situations you would see the convictions arising and applying. Create hypothetical examples. If you can think of several, differing situations in which the conviction might be applied, move on to getting the language of it correct and clear. Remember that the Storytellers cannot read your minds and cannot necessarily know exactly what you meant by a conviction unless the wording of it is clear and precise.
In the end, writing convictions is an art, not a science; there isn’t one right way or some perfect formula to apply. SbN’s mod team has a great deal of collective experience; we can and will offer guidance during your approval ticket if we think the convictions you’ve written might benefit from tweaks!