Merit: Rising Star
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Claudius watched the young Brujah through the small observation window he had arranged. The listening device wasn't everything he had hoped it would be, but it would have to do.
Below, Darren stood on a low stack of palettes addressing the small band of Anarchs that had begun a riot outside the Prince's favorite club. He explained how much trouble they were about to be in; how he had inside information that this was exactly the kind of outburst Prince Claudius would be waiting for. He told them that he sympathized with their arguments and demands, but they had to realize that raising the Prince's ire would only change one thing - whether they were alive or dead. He explained that they were strong, but that Prince Claudius had the entire Camarilla to call upon for strength. He told them that outright violence was not the way to change things; that it was a threat to Masquerade and to their own lives. He tried to reason with them, and show them that the only way to change things in the city was to gain the support of many Kindred. He told them that if they would just cool off for a few days, he would teach them how to gain power by the rules. It might not be quite as fast as they'd like, but at least they wouldn't all die in the process. After all, if something happened to them, who would go on to fight for the cause?
Claudius chuckled to himself. This Brujah was good indeed. The Anarchs balked, pouted, complained... but in the end they left peacefully. Claudius permitted himself a small, satisfied smile as he watched his preferred night spot become free of Anarch infestation.
Darren was going places, and Claudius intended to be his guide. Of course others vied for this position: Lina of the Toreador batted her eyelashes at Darren every opportunity she got, that damnable Malkavian who insisted on calling himself 'Bent' did his best to whisper secrets into Darren's ear whenever they were within five feet of each other. It wouldn't matter though, for none could offer Darren what he could. Yes, this Brujah was going places - and Claudius intended to see that he thought favorably of the old Ventrue when he got there.
One does not have a lengthy film career if he cannot act; singers who sound like suffering cats rarely find themselves rocketed to the top of the charts. The same principle applies to the Rising Star: one with no social and political prowess does not find himself climbing in the ranks of the governing body. What then does it take to gain and - more importantly - keep this merit?
The Rising Star is a company man, even when he doesn't appear to be at first or second glance. If he weren't, he'd find his rise to power stunted, cut short by a political machine that does not permit blatant radicals to assume their most sacred offices. In the example given above, while the Brujah sympathized with the Anarchs his suggestion in the end was that they be a part of the Camarilla. It may not have sounded that way to him or to them, but at the most basic level that's what it was: play by the rules, tow the party line, think what you want and do what you can about it... unless it's something you've been told you can't do.
Does this mean the Rising Star is a Camarilla flunky then, just spouting the old dogma to every wayward vampire who will listen? No; ten times over, no. Lackeys and imitators are recognized for what they are, and find their own comfortable places as the servants, aids, and tools of the real movers and shakers. The Rising Star is an innovator and a believer; someone who has faith in the 'old ways' and uses them to get results. The Rising Star knows how to influence people by manipulating their emotions and intellect, and plays the game of shadow politics well. He knows how to neutralize, immobilize, discredit, or outmaneuver his enemies, minimizing the damage they can cause him. Conversely, he knows how to bolster the reputations of his supporters, creating a mutually beneficial situation in which those who are 'with him' enjoy status. In turn, those with status win him more support when they speak well of him.
The Rising Star stays abreast of his world, keeping his ear both to the ground and to the wall of elder salons. He learns when to come to the aid of a superior in need, and when to see a bleeding fish for what it is and move in for the kill. He keeps up with who is in fashion and who isn't; who is favorable and who has lost face.
Even natural charisma and wit isn't enough to make a Rising Star. The tools of subtlety and power must be honed and perfected over time, and it is during this period of self improvement that the up and coming vampire usually catches the interest of his elders and superiors.
It is a big world, and there is a lot to go around - but it's not infinite. For everyone that moves in, someone must move out. This would largely be the reason that the Rising Star finds an easier time dealing with those whose ranks he is destined to join. To establish a good relationship now decreases the chance of having the Rising Star as an adversary or rival later. It also works to keep the cement of the Old Boys' Club, making sure that the Rising Star learns to appreciate his place among the elite. Of course there will be a few who will seek to do away with the Rising Star before he can reach any real position of power, but they will find their task made difficult by the myriad of groupies, lackeys, and friendly supporters, not to mention those in power who are grooming the Kindred for greater things.
Whatever else the Rising Star might be, he isn't stupid. If he wants to keep the position he has worked for and continue his climb to stardom, there are a few things he doesn't do - ever.
The Rising Star doesn't speak out against a popular Prince or Primogen, lest he find that Kindred's own arsenal of resources and supporters turned against him. The Rising Star doesn't openly support radical groups or the contravention of the Masquerade, lest the he be considered a radical himself and promptly find his favor withdrawn. He does his best not to involve himself in lose-lose situations, finding it far more beneficial not to choose a side until a victor has presented itself. A savvy Rising Star always weighs the potential loss and the potential gain before choosing to take - or not take - a risk.
The Rising Star has much work to look forward to each night of his unlife, for every waking moment presents a choice that will inevitably further his rise to power or hinder it. Alliances and bargains must be made, and sometimes stands must be taken. Personal empires must be built alongside political campaigns. Supporters must be drawn close, while enemies and deceivers must be weeded out and disposed of in one fashion or another. Those who stand in his way must be deposed, converted, or convinced of his destiny.
In the end, if he is successful the Rising Star will earn his place in the heavens. Rest assured that this is never an easy task, however, and any Kindred who has managed to rise to the top has likely managed to do so only through ruthless decisions and decisive actions. No altruist or bleeding heart will ever find himself among the ranks of the powerful; no virtuous saint will ever rule his own kind. But then, these virtuous Kindred would not want to. The Rising Star is the embodiment of what it means to be Kindred and what it means to be Camarilla, which leaves little room for anything beyond Draconian ideals and Machiavellian politics.
Afterword: A character who has the Rising Star merit should also have a few other things. While a new character will most likely not have mastered all these areas, he should have a decent score in:
Of course there are more traits and abilities that are useful to a Rising Star, but lack of ability to perform in any of the aforementioned areas could quickly and easily rob him of that title.
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