Retainers are purchased using experience points (XP) on an individual basis. Each Retainer Background purchased represents 1 Mortal or Revenant in which the Regnant has invested time and energy into building an intimate relationship, whether based on personal loyalty, supernatural coercion, emotion or something else entirely.
Retainers are, for the most part, supporting cast members in a character’s individual story. Bruce Wayne had Alfred; Frankenstein had Igor. These iconic Retainers represent the kind of relationship that a character cultivates with her Retainers. Unlike Allies or Contacts, Retainers are nearly always around and may appear during game sessions portrayed by the Storyteller. Perhaps they are overseeing your estates, managing your finances, defending your havens, or otherwise furthering your goals, but they are almost always underfoot and at a character’s beck and call. This isn’t always for the best and as a result exposes Retainers to dangers more often than any other Background.
Each Retainer typically has a Rating from one to five (1-5) depending on how many experience points are invested in the Retainer. Elders may invest more experience according to their generational limits for Backgrounds. Purchasing a Retainer creates a new Mortal or Revenant NPC per the Laws of the Night Revised Rules with a Rating of one (1). The player may create the Retainer and spend any invested experience on the Retainer character sheet, but the Retainer is an NPC and is typically controlled by the Storyteller during story-related situations. The results of a Retainers actions are solely left to the adjudication of the Storyteller. Retainer receives+10 freebie points for creation to use as the player sees fit, the only restriction being these 10 points may not be spent on Backgrounds.
A character may spend experience upon a Retainer to increase the Retainer’s Trait Rating, and for every Trait Rating purchased beyond the first, the Retainer gains 7 XP which the player may spend to advance the Retainer’s character sheet.
Retainers may also have Vicissitude Modifications per The Chaos Within House Rules as defined on page 51.
Retainers that do anything other than Extending Your PC’s Influence should be recorded in Puppet Prince so that the Retainer can be properly used, advanced and monitored by the Chronicle Staff.
Retainers may not purchase any Backgrounds except Alternate Identity and Fame. A Retainer may manage a Regnant PC’s Backgrounds on a Regnant’s behalf. He may also exercise her own Fame for his Regnant’s benefit without the 2-for-1 cost conversion.
Retainers can be used to perform the following actions:
Extend your Influence
A character on Humanity may use a Retainer to increase her personal Influence Cap (see pg xxx in LotNR) by one Trait. No character sheet is required for the Retainer should he be used in this way, but once this role is chosen, the Retainer’s role is "locked in" and that Retainer may be used for nothing else until he is killed, released or otherwise removed from play. Should a Retainer be removed for any reason, the Influence Trait gained from his participation is lost.
Manage your Influence
Any character may choose to use a Retainer to manage her Influence on her behalf. The Regnant Character’s Influence Cap applies not only to herself, but to her Retainers as well. Characters on the Path of Humanity often have no need to do this as they have no trouble managing relationships with mortals unless they are close to wassail.
On the other hand, a character on a Path of Enlightenment must use her Retainers to manage her personal Influence on her behalf. Being on a Path of Enlightenment makes it very difficult for character to interact with mortals, so it is often the practice of Lasombra, Tzimisce and Ventrue on Paths to use Retainers to manage their mortal sway. Each Retainer may manage a maximum number of Influence Categories equal to their Retainer Trait Rating. Additionally, the Retainer’s Trait Rating also determines the maximum Influence Traits the Retainer is capable of managing on his Regnant’s behalf. Using this formula, the maximum number of Influence Traits a Retainer may manage is equal to the Retainer’s Trait Rating multiplied by itself. Thus a 4-Trait Retainer may manage 16 Influence Traits in up to 4 Categories. There is no cap to the actual Influence Rating assigned to each category for the Retainer, only a limit to the maximum traits that can be managed.
Watch over a location
A Retainer may be used to perform mundane security and observation tasks. In general, if a Retainer is assigned to handle one of your Haven’s security measures, he will perform those tasks. A character sheet is not required for this purpose, but it is encouraged so that the security strength the retainer provides is easy to apply should a situation arise. A retainer used in this way that has no character sheet will have relevant character statistics left to the Storyteller’s discretion in any situation that warrants theNPC Retainer need to test for success or failure in response to any event.
Behave as Allies or Contacts
As each Retainer has a Trait Rating from one to five (1-5), each Retainer can also be used in the way a Contact or Ally would be. The same rules apply to the Retainer as it would a Contact or Ally, and the limitations of what the Retainer may do for the Thrall is limited by her character sheet. To use Retainers to emulate Contacts or Allies, the player must define the Thrall by creating a character sheet and managing it within the chronicle. Once defined, it may not be altered except through the expenditure of XP, thus increasing the Retainers Trait Rating.
Maintaining the Stables
There is no limit to the number of Retainers a character may purchase outside of the fact she must be able to feed them all to maintain them, else trouble may arise.
Every two Mortal Retainers a character possesses (rounded up)reduces the character’s starting blood traits at the beginning of each game session (thus each fortnight) by one (1) Trait. This expense is paid by the character in order to account for the blood the character must allow her Retainers to feed upon during the course of a fortnight, assuming that they too burn their blood on occasion to assist their Regnant.
So long as a Regnant can afford the cost of the blood needed to maintain her stable of Retainers, there is no limit to the number of Retainers a character may purchase.
Characters on Paths of Enlightenment have a harder time maintaining Mortal Retainers in their service, as their understanding of humanity and its principles is no longer natural, but foreign. Any character on a Path of Enlightenment has a limit to the number of Mortal Retainers she can control equal to 5 minus her Path Rating. Thus, a character with a Path of Caine Rating of 1 can possess only 4 Mortal Retainers, while a Path Rating of 5 would allow none. NOTE: This cap does not apply to Revenants, only Mortal Retainers. Further, should a character have retainers and progress to a point along their Path where this rule would present a restriction, the mortal retainers may be kept by the character, but should they be killed, they cannot be Recovered. SeeRetainer Loss below.
Retainers can be killed. It’s a risk every character takes when investing in a Retainer, but it also can reap the best rewards, not only in mechanical benefits but in great stories as well. Normally, per LotNR, when a Retainer dies, the XP invested is lost. However, let’s face it, no one likes to lose XP permanently. Below are TCW’s House Rules on how a PC can recover from the loss of a Retainer by nurturing a new Retainer to replace the old. If your Storyteller is not particularly keen on maintaining records for Retainer Loss and Recovery, then she has the right to decide that the loss of a Retainer is permanent and results in a loss of XP. A willing Storyteller can use the rules below.
Recovering from the Loss of a Retainer
In lieu of XP loss, the following rules allow for a lost Retainer to be rebuilt at the cost of record keeping and time for both the Storyteller and the player. The application of the recovery is quite simple. Below are the guidelines recommended for allowing the Recovery of a Retainer.
- A new Retainer being "recovered" cannot exceed the original Trait Rating of the Retainer it is replacing without the expenditure of additional experience.
- When a player declares that her character is going to nurture a new Retainer to replace a lost one, she must spend one fortnight selecting the new Thrall.
- Upon the next fortnight, she has ensnared the Thrall and he becomes a 1-Trait Retainer.
- For each Retainer Trait Rating the player wishes to rekindle from the lost one, she must spend significant time with the Retainer to the exclusion of all other activities for a number of fortnights equal to the Trait Rating desired. This time spent must be exclusive with the new Retainer. The Regnant cannot spend time doing anything else but nurturing the new Thrall into a strong relationship. No amount of supernatural coercion will speed the process as it is beyond the reach of such means. Retainers are valued for a reason -because in having them the Regnant has invested her time into them. Time, even to the immortal, must not be wasted frivolously.