The following is a brief outline of Boons, what types exist, what they are worth, how they are obtained and how they are transferred between kindred.
At its simplest level, Prestation is a formalisation of debts and favours traded by one Kindred to another. A Kindred may either assist another in a time of misfortune or request assistance from them. The debt is acknowledged between the Kindred involved, ideally front of the city Harpy or other witness, with the implied promise that the debt may be called in at any time.
Prestation is first and foremost a currency and takes the form of “Boons”.
Boons range in scale and worth, but largely fall within four categories, the names of which are commonly used terms:
These boons are the simplest type of boon and cover the most basic tasks and favours with minimal effort required from either side. They include such things as offering day-time crash space for a clan-mate who stayed out too close to dawn or getting a young-looking neonate past the bouncers at a pub.
These are the most common debts over another Kindred. As with all boons, what service can be obtained in return for such an obligation is not fixed (see below), but in general a Minor Boon will require the indebted Kindred to perform an action which does not involve any significant personal danger or damage to their own interests.
Major Boons are the most varied debt which can be owed. The nature of the action required to fulfil this obligation when called in, the duration of service and the level of personal risk to the indebted Kindred can all be substantial. Due to the very different natures of the obligations, there is no direct relationship between the value of a Minor and Major Boon. It can be surmised though that over the right individual, the power of a Major Boon could be worth dozens of Minor Boons.
These are the rarest and most dangerous forms of Prestation, reserved only for situations where one Kindred unequivocally owes their life to another. This may be because the Kindred’s life has been saved by their creditor or because their creditor holds the power of life and death over them and chooses not to exercise it. In any event, a Life Boon is a powerful obligation, enough to have a Kindred place themselves in real jeopardy on your behalf. No Kindred will agree to face certain death (the Beast would not allow it) but it could be used to force them to take risks they would otherwise avoid at all costs. Holding a Life Boon can cause its own distinct problems.
The simplest use of a Boon is to compel a service from the Kindred who owes the debt. The level of service will depend on, among other things, the following factors:
- Level of Boon owed – Minor, Major and Life Boons have different base values, and this will be essential to determine the level of inconvenience or risk incurred by the debtor.
- Who owes the Boon – What services can be demanded will obviously be affected by what the debtor is capable of achieving. A Prince will be capable of much more than a Neonate, and even where either can perform an action, what might be a minor inconvenience for one may be a grave risk for the other.
- Who holds the Boon – It may be easier for an Elder to extract the service they desire from another Kindred than for a Neonate to extract the same service. This is simply the way of Kindred politics – no-one senior wants to lose face by being seen to serve someone beneath them.
- Overriding interests – Certain actions may not be available to Kindred, whether that is breaking the traditions or breaking another debt. Since Prestation is a system linked to the Camarilla, it may be difficult to enforce in those circumstances.
Failing to uphold your debts is a very serious matter. Individuals who are publicly known to be Boon-broken will be shunned. Other Kindred will usually refuse to accept their Boons or to trade with them. It may also destroy any status they have gained and throw their relationships in the Camarilla into doubt. However, you may refuse to pay a Boon if the payment would require you to break the Traditions.
Prestation as Currency
While Prestation is of obvious benefit in compelling service from other Kindred, there is also a substantial market in trading Boons among Camarilla members. This is particularly important, as many Kindred interests cannot be achieved with human currencies, and it may be many decades or centuries since some Kindred have used mundane methods of payment.
Trading Prestation will be subject to many of the same considerations as evaluating what services can be obtained with a Boon. The value of the debt is ultimately only what will be paid for it, and it may be the case that a Boon will be of great value to someone requiring a service from, or a hold over the debtor.
Trades are usually conducted in a similar way to the grant of Prestation, a Harpy as witness will usually make sure the details are made known.
Prestation as Status Symbols
Spending Prestation can bring obvious gains – compelling some form of service. Other Boons or benefits may be obtained by trading the debt. However, while a person holds a debt over a Kindred, that will be known to many. If there is a disparity of power between the two Kindred, or if one Kindred has a considerable collection of debts, this may influence how others treat that individual.
If a neonate comes into possession of a debt over an Elder, interest will be piqued in how they achieved that. Perhaps they possess talents or connections not obviously apparent. They may be a person to watch, to trade with and to be wary of.
However, there is also the potential for the reverse to be true. An Elder indebted to a neonate may find their standing damaged to a degree. Whispers may arise as to how they became so indebted, and that such a novice holds influence over them. In each case, these factors will be much greater if the debt is larger than a Minor Boon. Given that there is this risk, it can also be dangerous to hold a debt over someone more powerful, and a balance must be struck between the immediate benefit or using or trading the debt, the long term advantage of keeping it and the dangers of doing so.
For a neonate to owe a debt to more senior Kindred also has one advantage – that Kindred has a vested interest in your survival. They may do nothing to act upon this, but even the public knowledge that you owe them a debt may deter others from interfering with you and preventing you repaying that debt.
Prestation at the game
The most important factor to take from all of this is that Prestation is a flexible thing. Think of it as a formal version of someone saying “I owe you”. Then think how difficult that would be to value and enforce. Matters are a little more formal in the Camarilla, but not a lot.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in the Prestation game though. The more you play, the more you show that you can keep and fulfil your debts, the more valuable they become to give. Minor Boons in particular should be offered regularly for the advantages you can gain. Remember – many Boons go unspent when a character dies, so don’t let yours go to waste!