Lex Magni Mille

by Timothy Toner

It is said that of the creatures in the World of Darkness, none are more solitary than ghosts, and none more social than the Garou. Of those that lie in between, Mages huddle in smoky covens, desperately trying to call back former glory. Faeries pretend to possess organization, but fail to hold firm when the door opens and the light is flipped on. They are chaos and order wrapped into a bundle of contempt.

Of all these creatures, none are more human, and more curious than the most unnatural of them all, the vampire. Somewhere, oozing in the neverdying brain that itches in their skulls, they entertain notions of order and hierarchy, in a desperate attempt to cling to the remaining strands of humanity. They realize, in those desperate hours when the sun crawls across the heavens, that they will nevermore be human. This dread creates a desire to be with them, to mingle with the life now lost. That desire is soon replaced with the desire to feed, and then the desire to sleep, and thus the cycle of self loathing continues.

Thus, vampires cannot simply live amongst people any more than the ravenous wolf can live amongst sheep. Instead, they must rule over the timid flocks with an iron hand, lest one with horns get notions of striking back. Amid all this culling and breeding that goes on in pertuitam, comes a loneliness, a desire to talk with another of their kind, without the subject of feeding constantly tugging at their consciousness. But deeper than this desire, is the instinct of territoriality, the Lex Magni Mille.

Known as the Law of the Hundred Thousand, it was first noted with the huge press of Kindred in Rome. With the advent of a systematic, all encompassing census, particularly during the reign of Octavian, population figures finally became available. The Price of Rome, styling himself as a kind of Emperor, requested that all cities in the empire report Kindred populations. The majority, fearing the trouble the prince could cause with the weight of the Roman army, assented. What began as a power play, however, transformed into one of the most introspective moments in Kindred history. Those whom the Prince ordered to compile the data noticed a disturbing correlation between Kindred populations, kine populations, and the amount of internecine conflict amongst the Kindred in those areas.

This information was purposefully kept from the current Prince, lest he try to use it to his advantage. For those who knew, however, the world that they thought they controlled grew very unfamiliar indeed.

It would seem that a vampire is bitterly aware of the given size of the populace in an area he controls, and beyond any desire to speak and interact with others of his kind, he knows he must protect the blood that gives him life. Thus is the wolf culled into the sheepdog by the same instinct that transformed him into a wolf.

Put simply, the Kindred discovered that a population of 100,000 can safely support a single vampire in pertuitam. Once can subsist on less by all means, with only slightly greater chances of risking detection, but 100,000 seems a good number. For every 1,000 people less than 100,000, the chance of detection grows by 1% per month. Thus, if a vampire lived in a community of 75,000 people, there is a 25% chance per month that someone will notice something wrong: an unexplained increase in violent crimes, people coming in, complaining about feeling weak and suffering from blood disorders. Actively maintaining the Masquerade tends to lessen the chance a bit; for every success on a Manipulation+Masquerade (Diff 6) roll, the percent drops 1. However, the vampire in question must actively be seeking to conceal his identity, by creating fake identities, and by choosing his haven and his victims wisely.

Just who it is that notices will vary from place to place. Sometimes it will be the police, sometimes it will be a doctor. Often, however, it will be a person on the secondary level of an organization. Thus, a desk sergeant would be too busy to notice all the people coming in, complaining of hickeys, with no memory of the event, but a beat cop, seeing the emotion on the faces of the victims, might pick up on it. Whether or not this person is believed is another question altogether. Examples of those who could figure it out vary from a fledgling reporter, to a nurse in records, to a secretary in city hall. Only those with the proper background will even suspect it is a vampire. The majority, however, will realize that something unquestionably violent is out there, but its exact nature is unknown.

However, just as sheep grow accustomed to a new master, so too do the populace become complacent. Every month after the first, the chance of detection drops 1%. In time, the people will shake their heads in dismay at the brutal world in which they dwell. If a vampire must kill to feed, this chance never drops, however. Further, such open violence probably will lead to an exodus of kine out of an area.

The situation is made more complex by the inevitable arrival of other Kindred. If another vampire were to dwell in the same area, even unbeknownst, a protectionist drive rises up, and compels the two to seek each other out. Although seldom bloody at first, the original will advise the newcomer that the area is claimed. The second will usually move on to greener pastures. If he does not, something within them both cause them to attempt to eliminate the other, either by exile or death.

As will be indicated, this is linked with the vampiric tendency to frenzy when threatened. Somehow, the two simply cannot get along with one another, and no matter how good friends they were, the animosity is incredible. Each month, at about the time of the full moon, when the contested Domain is fully illuminated in silvery light, both vampires must roll Self-Control, difficulty 6. A failure means that the respective vampire has suddenly lost the ability to see the other in a humane light. Humanity toward that individual drops 1, and affects actions taken toward the other Kindred. This can limit the dice a vampire rolls for Frenzy in regard to all abrasive actions involving the two vampires.

The exact mechanism that allows one Kindred to know intrinsically that there is another vampire in the area is unknown. Various theories have been put forth, but none of them cover the range of possibilities as seen in the field. The two most highly regarded views revolve around the opposite ends of the supernatural spectrum. The first states that through the blood of Caine, all vampires are inexorably linked. It is believed that this connection is normally negligible in huge cities, where the presence of so many others desensitizes all Kindred equally.

The second theory claims a naturalistic cause, which unfortunately is almost as impossible as the first. Some state that the kine themselves react differently when two predators stalk the streets, and that the vampires pick up on this subconscious fear that shows in the faces of their prey. This stance is brought up most of the time by those vampires convinced that they are part of the natural order.

Of course, further intrusion of more Kindred in contested areas only makes the situation worse. For every Kindred feeding in "starved" lands (areas with less than the Lex can support), the monthly chance of avoiding detection is estimated by dividing kine population by 100,000, then dividing by the vampiric population. This can further be reduced by careful maintenance of the Masquerade (Man+Masquerade, Diff 6. Successes of all those participating are cumulative, reducing chances of detection by 1%, unless two or more directly conflict with one another. The advantage of maintaining the Masquerade are apparent).

With the rise of larger cities, the Lex Magnum Mille is still in effect. For instance, Chicago, a city in the North American continent, has a population of 7 million people (excluding the suburbs). According to the Lex, 70 vampires can safely subsist here. By the best estimate available, before the fall of Lodin, over 95 vampire made their home in Chicago. Without a Masquerade in place, the chance of someone detecting a Kindred presence was 26% each month. Lodin was wise to deal with violations of the Masquerade and the Traditions with an iron fist.

As it turns out, mapping out kine response to Kindred populations is much more simple than trying to fathom the myriad complex relationships necessary to predict Kindred-Kindred response in overpopulated urban areas. The kine can be seen as a herd, reacting to the presence of predators in a single, unified fashion. The way one predatory acts towards another in response to a third's violation of a fourth's hunting area is too complex to imagine, and extrapolating it into a population of over 25 Kindred is nigh impossible. Still, some aspects of complex population dynamics hold true.

The first apparent effect of the Lex is the tendency for Kindred to form into coteries, with one group teaming up against another. This perhaps led to the formation of the Sabbat and Camarilla, as the cities grew, while the Kindred population grew faster, and the need to fight over limited resources soared. Since one usually targets an enemy before a friend, any frustrations derived from subconscious perceptions of food scarcity are taken out on opposing groups.

Another possible effect of the Lex has to do with the concept of Princes and domains, the very basis of vampiric structure. Many argue that an outdated system, such as feudalism, has no place in modern society, and many Neonates spoon-fed on democracy, resist the structure with all their might. Why has it survived so long, then, when the rest of the world has turned its back?

Evidence indicates that Kindred were more like their Lupine foes than either would care to admit. Since during the time of the Middle Ages, areas with populations of 100,000 were few and far between, some vampires took to mapping out huge sections of land as their personal domain. The longevity of the vampire makes attempting to rely on arbitrary kine boundaries, which change with each border skirmish and royal inheritance, foolish. Subsequently, many took to using natural boundaries to mark off their Domain. Kindred scholars have conjectured that this is the source of the myth that vampires cannot cross running water. In truth, if a kine being chased reached a boundary river and crossed over, the pursuing vampire would not dare cross, and risk violating the Domain of the vampire on the other side.

In the past, the argument against this theory has always been, "Why can't the pursuer drag the prey back?" In short, if your domain stretches over hundreds of square miles, how could you possibly be aware of all the comings and goings? With the evidence of the connection, made possible by the Lex, such sensitivity, although extreme, is possible.

We know from stories such as these that the rule of the alpha has always dominated our kind. The lupine do it to control reproduction. Vampires do it to safeguard food supply. The Sabbat form a power structure very similar to the Camarilla in that regard, and even the Anarchs, who despise all the trappings of rule, acknowledge a single ruler to settle land disputes.

Somehow, the single ruler, whether she be called Prince, Archbishop, or Arbitrator, becomes so in tune with the land she hunts, that she can sense the presence of Kindred coming and going. It could very well be as sophisticated as knowing precisely where and who has trespassed, it could be as simple as a general feeling that a vampire has crossed the boundary, or it could be as mundane as being diligent enough in examining evidence that another Kindred had passed this way. It is difficult to say which is true, since rulers of a Domain are not known to share their secrets with outsiders. Even if it was only careful examination of evidence, in days when Domains were that large, a ruler knew who her neighbors were and would be clever enough to realize where to go to when something was amiss.

At this point in the discussion, it is worthwhile to discuss another of the "unwritten" laws of the Kindred, the Lex Triduum. Also known as the Law of Three Days, it is the standard which most of the Camarilla Princes use in arbitrating new arrivals. Put simply, a new arrival to the Domain of a Prince has to present himself immediately, and then is allowed three days before he must return to the Prince to gain permission to stay beyond that period. This usually requires a gift of some sort proffered to the prince. Most of the time, it is a favor, but in some areas it is a simple as agreeing not to break the Traditions, or as harsh as forced drinking of the Prince's blood, initiating the first step of a blood bond.

When seen in the light of the Lex Magna Mille, the Lex Triduum, once considered an overbearing ritual designed by pompous, arrogant Princes, is now understandable. It is linked to the ancient rite of guest/host rights, but it serves more to allay a Prince's fears about whether he is in charge, and to control the influx of Kindred into his Domain. However, the intent of the Lex Triduum may have been lost over the ages. Today, a Prince who is made aware of a Kindred that has violated the Lex Triduum will feel a sense of anger that his rights have been violated, and a strong sense of vindication that some deep seated feeling of unrest, the "paranoia" anarchs attribute to rulers, has been justified. In truth, she is merely awakening to her subconscious control over the Domain.

One curious theory put forth is that the act of blood bonding eliminates the urges of the Lex. Thus, for a group of vampires to dwell in limited populations, it is in the best interest of all for bonds to exist. This is perhaps another reason why the Sabbat instituted the Vaudlerie, or group blood bond. In the early days, the Sabbat were forced to live in secret, finding areas that were poor in population, lest a Camarilla lackey desire it more, and stumble upon their location. However, a large population of cannon fodder was also significant, and short of putting the less desirable ones in "storage," an effective way to diminish the "hunger paranoia" was needed. A vampire unable to act outside the best interests of his allies would make a safe combatant.

Thus, the Sabbat create freely, even in areas where kine are few, relying on the bond to keep them safe. Mexico City, for example, has a population of 9 million, and a Sabbat presence of over 200. With the Lex suppressed with Vaudlerie, the Sabbat act as one, rather than a mass of united predators, as they seen the Camarilla, making a Masquerade unnecessary. However, despite the fact that the first Sabbat, amongst the brightest Kindred of their age, knew of the Lex, those who live today, not having been subjected to it for over 500 years, do not know the dangers inherent in not following the dictates of the Lex.

In fact, it could very well be destroying the Sabbat from within. Those who have studied the effect of the blood bond on the Lex report that there are some disturbing side effects. The most interesting is the variable effects it has on Camarilla and Sabbat Kindred. Amongst the Camarilla, where bonds are seen as chains, linking vampires together, the Bond acts to strengthen ties within "bond Coteries (coteries consisting of many vampires bonded to a single vampire)" against other factions within the Camarilla. Thus, loyalty to the unit is strong, while loyalty to the Camarilla is weak. The exact opposite effect is seen in the "circle bond" of Vaudlerie. It creates a strong sense of loyalty to the institutions of the Sabbat, while instilling internecine rivalry on a monstrous level.

The theory behind this is that the Bond creates an unquestionable resolution to the problem of Dominance. By submitting to the Bond, even unwittingly, the thrall surrenders any claim to the Domain to the regnant. Because there is no submission in Vaudlerie, there is a manifest feeling of forced togetherness joined with the tension of the Lex. Although the members of the Pack are unquestionably loyal to the ideals of the Sabbat, they seek only to rectify unsettlable differences amongst themselves.

Of course, all this begs the question. Why 100,000? Should it not be linked to mortality rates, and how well a society can maintain population? From all evidence presented, there is no scientific explanation. Instead, those who rely on less rational explanations claim that 100,000 was the population of the Second City, a permanent reminder of the closest Kindred came to paradise on earth.

According to the scant records that survive the Second City, the number of kine were small compared to the number of Kindred, and the Lex Magnum Mille seemed not in effect. Why is difficult to say. Did Caine, disgusted by the foul acts of the Third Generation, place this curse of eternal squabbling? Or was it an effect of Caine himself, who acted as a pacifier to his minions? If the second is true, then there is no greater proof that Caine is gone, than the Jyhad still burns so strongly.

Role-Playing Possibilities

After a heady dose of theory, perhaps it's necessary to look at a variety of role-playing possibilities the Lex presents. Keep in mind that each need careful development to fully enjoy. The Lex works slowly, but its effects have shaped the way Kindred have acted throughout the ages.

The Good Earth:
The Troupe finds itself stranded in a locale for an extended period of time. Specific events could be securing a haven as a possible bolthole in the event of Siege, or guarding a Tremere as he performs research in the Rare Book room of a university. Most of the time, small towns with such critical occult importance are surrounded by Garou packs interested in whatever makes Kindred stray so far from safety. With the threat of attack everpresent, the paranoia instilled by the Lex might just cause the Troupe to turn on itself.
It's Bad to Be the Prince:
Tired of the neverending conflicts in the big city, a character decides to strike out and become Prince of a smaller city. This can lead to several Chapters of interesting possibilities, as the character establishes ties with mortal agencies, and possible alliances with Lupines. Eventually, however, the character feels haunted that something is terribly wrong in his domain. What he doesn't know is that a Gangrel pack use this city as winter quarters, and that the added population exceeds the Lex. Panicked, the Prince calls in his old friends, further exacerbating the situation. Then the mortals begin to sense the presence of the Kindred, and all hell breaks loose...
It's Good to Be the Prince:
Collegetown, USA is a small community of 75,000 that is 150 miles south of the Troupe's city. Word has reached the Prince of the Troupe's city that a vampire has declared herself Prince of Collegetown. This Prince has rebuffed all attempts at contact with the Camarilla, and rumors are spreading of her close allegiances with either the Sabbat or Anarchs. Calling in a boon, the Prince asks the Troupe to visit Collegetown, as an "official delegation." The problems are obvious: there, the Prince is law. With three days, and the paranoia of the Lex setting in, how can they possibly stop her, if indeed she is conspiring with the Enemy?
The Birthing Ban:
A scholar in the Camarilla has uncovered information linking violations of the Lex to upheavals in the established order. Word has been sent out to all cities that population must be brought under control, to insure stability, especially in light of several cities on the brink of siege. The powers that be in the character's city have declared that no further Childer will be Embraced, until natural attrition resolves the problem. Period. Any violators will find themselves the object of a Blood Hunt. Characters will be caught in the moral dilemma of a repressive society created for genuinely practical reasons. What makes it worse is when a good friend of the Troupe finds himself in terrible danger. He had followed a worthy candidate for years, then witnessed her cut down in random violence. Having no choice, he Embraced her. Is exile an option? Can a deal be cut? How long will the ban last?
The Leak:
The Troupe's city is poised on the brink of Siege by the Sabbat. Already overcrowded, the invisible influx of Sabbat is stretching the Lex to its limits. The Prince detects so many violations of the Lex that she is almost paralyzed with indecision. However, someone is leaking information about the location of Sabbat moles. The Troupe is requested to take them out. If they check, they find the leak is none other than a member of a Sabbat Pack being driven insane by the urge to destroy her packmates, but the inability to do it herself.
The Bond:
Overpopulation is a problem with which every city has to deal. Some handle it more graciously than others. The Prince of the Troupe's city has just captured a notorious Anarch, and has applied the third bond. Nothing has happened, however; the Anarch is Bonded to someone else. The Anarch swears that he had nothing to do with it. Using Telepathy, the Prince discovers that the Anarch, while still a Neonate, encountered an enigmatic figure who bonded him, and Dominated him to forget. Several other Kindred, over half the vampires Embraced in the last ten years, have similar "lost" memories. In truth, a Brujah intellectual discovered the Lex, and attempted to "save" the city by the only proscribed method: Bonding. What started as an altruistic gesture has now made the Brujah the most hated, most powerful individual in the city. The Prince, in a bold (read: suicidal) move ordered a Blood Hunt on the Brujah. Your Troupe is eager to take up the challenge, but the rumor is out that one of the Troupe has been Bonded to the Brujah, and will turn on the Troupe when the time is right.
The Siege:
It is war, a time when the most heinous of crimes are excusable and without penalty. The Media believes it is just one of those summers, a time when the heat soars, and tempers flare uncontrollably. It is the third month of the Siege. The Anarchs are weakening, but more troops are needed! But something's wrong with the Neonate fighters. Once you had to rally them into a blood frenzy, but now they fight at the slightest provocation, even cutting into friendly forces. A lone Tremere has warned the Prince of the Lex, and he has shoved it aside out of hand, no longer seeing the Troops as human, but as expendable weapons (a reaction to the Lex). He now turns to the Troupe, begging them to try to find a way to reduce the population, end the conflict quickly, or even Bond the grunts. Unless this is done immediately, he predicts a blood bath as the troops turn in on themselves.
The Aftermath:
The Prince is dead. Long live the Prince. Kindred who were once unwavering allies are now turning on each other, fighting over worthless territory, and it seems to make no sense. To this brave new world comes a representative of the Camarilla, who proclaims that all those the Prince had held in Thrall are now free to act as they please,and long suppressed hatreds have blossomed. The city faces another war, and the once Bonded masses don't care. What's worse, with no one to safeguard the Third Tradition, the leaders are creating Progeny freely, further heightening the tension. A good way to completely redesign the power structure of a city.
The Breaking Point:
Chicago is a city of 7 million kine. After the Fall of Lodin, the population dropped from 95 to 63. Lodin was rather free in whom he Bonded. His once loyal forces are now spreading out, and Embracing "families" of their own. Within six months, the population has jumped from 63 to 105, and climbing almost every night. The passions induced by the Lex are hurtling the city to another conflict, this one a Camarilla civil war. Three nights before a Justicar is due to arrive, the leader of one of the factions is brutally murdered. Previously, he was the key to the peace that would have made the Justicar's judgement moot. Now all the forces accuse each other of the crime. If the Troupe cannot solve the crime before the Justicar arrives, his judgement will stand. The rumor is that it will be a de facto birthing ban: all Childer created after a certain date will be summarily destroyed. The Troupe immediately investigates, but discovers only one possibility: one of his Thralls murdered the leader. Given sufficient overpopulation, is the Lex potent enough to destroy a Blood Bond? No one would normally believe it, but if the thrall did not do it, then the killer runs free, and there is no peace. If she did do it, then the Blood Bond, and the Camarilla, will never be the same again.
I am the Land:
In the past vampires claimed vast areas of the land as their own. Two hundred and fifty years ago, a very old, very potent vampire claimed an area of land roughly the size of Indiana. During a savage battle with the Garou, he was thrown into Torpor, and lay there for over a hundred years. The Garou induced the locals to pile enormous stones on the site. Later, a large structure was built there, taking advantage of the wealth of stones. As part of an urban renewal project, the stone edifice was leveled. However, when the workers were digging the gas line, they noticed what seemed to be human remains. Fortunately for the Kindred, one of the specialists brought in was a ghoul of a scholarly Kindred, and immediately informed his Regnant. It took but a moment, and the ancient one's eyes opened bright. In the Troupe's city, the Prince collapses. He complains of a feeling of powerlessness, as if something had been stripped from him. Rather than skulking in the shadows, as most Methuselahs are wont to do, the ancient one proclaims himself lord of the Domain, an area encompassing not only the Troupe's city, but three others with populations over 1,500,000. Further, the Camarilla confirms that since he was here first, his rule is still law. What is worse, he demands to see all Kindred in the region, and the rumors fly that majority he exiles, and a few he simply executes. All those who defy his command will be hunted down and killed. The Camarilla is still reeling with the prospect of one though long dead returning to reclaim his land, and they are unwilling to rule on the matter. Then it is declared that the Troupe must come before his Eminence. Word is spreading that a resistance movement is growing within the Domain, led by none other than the former Prince. Does the Troupe acquiesce to the demands of the Old One, or do they become rebels? If played correctly, this possibility creates an environment unlike anything the Troupe has every imagined!