Merits and Flaws are a special and optional type of character traits used in the old World of Darkness's Storyteller System to flesh out characters. They both involved the use of freebie points. Merits and flaws were used to flesh out a character and add playable advantages or disadvantages that were otherwise not covered by the typical character traits. They were usually not found in the main rulebook of each line, but were instead published in that line's Players Guide.
The range of merits and flaws are diverse, but there are several basic merits and flaws that are common to all lines. Physical, social, and mental were among the most common categories, as were psychological, supernatural and ally-type merits and flaws. Other types were available, depending on the type of creature being created, and were usually related to that specific supernatural breed. A classic Vampire: The Masquerade flaw, for example, was Thin Blood, used to represent a character above generation thirteen.
Merits, as the name suggests, provided boons or advantages and could be purchased through freebie points or experience only. Classic examples of merits include Common Sense, Code of Honor, Eidetic Memory, Ambidextrous, True Love, Lucky, and the infamous Fast Learner (which many took for the extra experience point gained at the end of every chapter!). Also seen as merits were alliances with a creature of another supernatural breed, such as a wraith ally for a Garou.
Flaws obviously provided the opposite effect. Unlike merits, adding a flaw to a character allowed you to gain freebie points equal to that flaw's rating; however, there was a limit of seven points that could be gained in this manner. Classic flaws include Phobia, Curse, Vengeance, Amnesia, Distinctive Appearance, Enemy, and a set of flaws which limited the amount of points that could be spent in each Ability. Inept limited the points one could take in Talents, Uneducated limited Knowledges, and Unskilled affected Skills.
A very different system for handling Flaws is used by the Storytelling System, in which they are unrelated to Merits.
Animal Affinity The character has an innate understanding of and rapport with a certain type of animal. All difficulties dealing with that Animal are reduced by 2. (DSBH)
Elysium Domain The character control's some part of the city's Elysium. She is its recognized protector and in many ways it is considered her domain but is does not belong to the character and other Kindred can enjoy it freely. The character gains the respect as the Keeper of Elysium for that which she controls. (DSBH)
Entrepreneur Making money comes easy to the character. All difficulty of rolls that involve acquiring money through business are reduced by 2. (DSBH)
Safe Passage The character has the right to pass through the territory of some other vampire or sect that does not normally allow others (or at least members of his particular sect) passage through their territory. Toreador often have this Merit for various hostile cities, allowing them to enjoy the Elysium of those cities without fear. (DSBH)
Student The character serves as a mentor to a younger, more inexperienced vampire. The student is most likely a neonate or an Ancillae. This student will assist the character as he commands, but he also considers this Kindred his ward. The character takes responsibility for training this vampire and for protecting her from harm. (DSBH)
Sanctuary Another vampire has promised the character protection from all harm should he come to her for sanctuary. This may be a mentor, a sire, or someone who owes him a boon. The vampire has the power to protect the character from most threats. (DSBH)
Sanctity This Merit is sometimes called the halo effect; everyone considers the player pure and innocent, though not necessarily not naive. The player has a saint-like quality that is hard to pinpoint but cannot be denied. The player is trusted, even if they are not trustworthy. At the Storyteller's discretion, the players tend to receive lesser punishments for wrongdoing, and they are liked by most.
Well-Traveled The character has traveled all over the globe, seen many different cities, and met a great number of Kindred. There is a chance he will know of a vampire from another city when he hear his name. This is an intelligence roll (difficulty 10 - the Kindred's Status). (DSBH)
Valuable Secret (1 - 3 Merit) Others would kill or die to know this secret the character guards. The Valuable Secret should be created and given by the Storyteller. Perhaps the character knows that the prince is an Infernal Diablorist or that the primogen are actually all Sabbat. Whatever the case, only those involved in the secret and the character know about the Valuable Secret. (DSBH)
Wraith Companion The character has a mentor that is a wraith. The character will be able to touch and see him if in the Underworld, but in the Skinlands only the wraith will be able to contact the character unless the character has rituals or powers that allows her to see and interact with the Shadowlands (cWOD) from the Skinlands. (DSBH)
Airport The character controls a major airport, and all Kindred who would use it must answer to him, for it is his domain. (DSBH)
Extremist Group The character has both Influence over and Contacts within an extremist group of some sort. This could be a group of near insane survivalists with a cause, some hate group or a terrorist group. This group provides him with assistance, and possibly even agents to handle his dirty work. It might also provide him with ties to similar groups. The more often he use your ties, the weaker they grow. (DSBH)
Inconnu Associate The character is friends with another Kindred who belongs to the Inconnu. Though he may call upon his friend in times of need, she may call on him as well. Neither of the sects appreciate such relationships, and his leaders would punish him if his friendship were discovered. Arranging methods of communication and meeting places will be difficult. (DSBH)
University The character has control over a university. The trustees and important officials serve his interests. The character has full access to the school, and he can hunt the campus freely. The professors and libraries are useful in providing him with research information. The campus also has lots of computer equipment, along with those who know how to use it. (DSBH)
Castle The character owns a castle with at least 50 rooms and maybe as many as 500. He also controls a large estate around the castle. The servants, if he has any, are provided for if you choose this Merit. The castle can be in as poor or as good a condition as the character wishes. The more inhabited it appears to be, the more attention it will garner. Characters in the New World cannot have this Merit unless they can justify it - "An insane relative had the castle moved from Scotland, stone by stone." (DSBH)
Strong Blood The character's blood is especially potent. Any Kindred who tastes his blood will find it extremely rich and potent and will recognize its great strength. Any diabolist who tastes it will lust after it. The character can Blood Bond someone with but two drinks of his blood. (DSBH)
Capable Assistant The character has another vampire who acts as her right hand in everything. This vampire is loyal, capable, and powerful enought to stand against anyone in her way. She may be Blood Bound to the character but would serve anyway. (DSBH)
Blackmailed The character is being blackmailed by another Kindred who is powerful and smart enough to keep the character from destroying her nemesis. The character is used by the Blackmailer to her personal advantage, forcing all sorts of awful things. Money or blood may be taken or she may force the character to aid the blackmailer in her own schemes. (DSBH)
Irretraceable Fangs The character is unable to retract his fangs. He should be very careful, lest the wrong mortals see them. Vicissitude 3 (Bonecraft) can be used to forcibly cause them to shrink, but the process is painful and the fangs will return the next night. (DSBH)
Demon Plagued Either at one time the character practiced Infernal Diablerie and then broke it off or ran a foul of Baali, or another Infernalist and her cultists. Whatever the case, the vampire is now plagued by the evil efforts of a demon. It constantly tries to cause all sorts of problems but seldom has the power to face the character directly. (DSBH)
Faerie Hatred The character is hated by the Fae. They find her totaly repulsive either for a past deed or nothing at all. They will thrawt any and all plans the character has if they are near by. (DSBH)
Methuselah's Thirst The character is no longer capable of drinking mortal blood to sustain himself regardless of Blood Potency. He must feed upon the vitae of other Kindred. (DSBH)