Monday, November 26, 2012

Dinner with La Famiglia.

In keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, I decided to run my first game of Vampire: The Masquerade - 20th Anniversary Edition by running a game the pre-written story: Giovanni Chronicles.   I first bought GC at a used bookstore two years ago and, like most of the clan/supplement books I bought en masse, it gathered on my bookshelf collecting dust.  (I think I have the God-Awful 2nd Edition Storyteller's Guide to the Sabbat in there as well.)

Diablerize Thunder, and shit Lightning!




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I figured the best way to celebrate a day of "getting together with friends and family to eat a hearty meal" was by playing a game where the opening act is all about "getting together with friends and family to be a hearty meal!"   

Okay, so technically, we played on Black Friday...
Maybe I should have run Gehenna...     
  The game is split into four separate sagas, taking place over different centuries.  1444, 1666, 1888 and the Final NightsThe first act of Part I involves the PC's (Mortal, at this point) receiving various invitations to the estate of Lord Claudius Giovanni.  A mysterious nobleman whom nobody ever seems to have actually met!

Had he been a vampire, I wouldn't have fallen asleep in English class.
 
It soon becomes readily obvious that the "guests" are not truly guests at all, but rather have been brought  in as the main course for members of Lord Giovanni's inner-circle of the damned!  When Hardestadt and the troops of the fledgling (and still hypothetical) Camarilla crash the party, Lord Giovanni and his guests quickly embrace their meals, in hopes that in the confusion, they can escapeThe ruse works, and Hardestadt is too busy interrogating the bewildered PC's to pursue.  Instead, he has the neonates imprisoned until he can figure out what to do with them.  

Thus begins the Camarilla's lengthy application process, with acceptance allowing them entrance to the safe and lucrative Sect; denial meaning final death.  As the hammer falls, the council's ruling is that they will be spared should they make themselves useful by serving as spies against their sires.
 
Also, one has to be Hardestat's butler.
 
The game ran smoothly with PC's playing pre-generated characters.  (I found it appropriate considering that any actual PC backstory would be largely ignored in this setting.)  Everyone settled into their role fairly easily, with a personal shout-out to Stuart, who played a female viking that was easily more macho and intimidating than any male viking character I'd ever seen.  (For his take on the session, read here).

However, as a story-teller, I found this particular story in Giovanni Chronicles to be especially challenging.  The mood of World of Darkness is horror, and nothing is more horrifying than being powerless.  With the PC's playing mortals for the first 80% of the session, they are about as powerless as they come.  The problem comes with the other 20% being the PC's interaction with the Camarilla elders.  As new PC's, they are little more than powerless against them, too.  So for 100% of the game, there was very little the PC's could say or do to affect the goings-on around them. 
 
 Thankfully, the rest of the chronicle appears to change matters, but when the first session of a game (the "keep-your-PC's-interested session") involves over four hours of exposition, how much interest can one expect to keep?  For that matter, how much attention does a PC deserve to give?

Another issue arises because the PC's know what is going to happen.  They know that their mortal character is going to encounter a vampire, one that will likely feed on their blood and embrace them into their fold.  There's only so many ways you can describe someone's fangs revealing themselves in a hungry manner before it loses all of its terror whatsoever.

andthenaskeletonpoppedout.gif
Thankfully, my group consisted entirely of veteran role-players who knew the system, knew the ropes and gave it their all.  And while certain parts of the story lost their gothic horror grip, I did what I could to add my own flavor in to make things chilling.  I am told a specific scene involving iron maidens being particularly harrowing.
Iron Maiden?!



All-in-all, I think the session went well.  It has taught me, however, that for future games I likely cannot run it directly from a book, but rather need to prepare my own notes and expository dialogue instead.

Friday, November 16, 2012

World of Dorkness.


Nostalgia is a curious thing.  On one hand, it becomes a comforting teat to suckle upon in an attempt to regain our youth.  On the other, it can be a means of escape.  As a table-top gamer, one of the inevitable things we must deal with is the passage of time.  Rules are errata'd, new editions revise previous ones, entire gaming lines become as arcane and forgotten as the realms in which they portray.  (See what I did there?)

White Wolf's World of Darkness setting, beginning in 1991 with Vampire: The Masquerade, was one such game.  Loved by thousands of fans, the games remained in print and fairly consistent (with the occasional retcon', or discontinuation with such ill-fated games as Wraith: The Oblivion, or Changeling: The Dreaming) until the World of Darkness ended in 2004.  Literally, each and every game's canon story met with an Apocalyptic ending.

Afterward, White Wolf introduced the New World of Darkness (or nWOD, as we call it on the streets) and sought to re-vamp (yuk-yuk) its series with a smaller-scale, more melancholy line focused upon personal horror.

This decision was met with both praise and criticism.  While many fans (myself included) enjoyed the New World of Darkness, it could never be a replacement.  Merely an alternative. 

Recently, White Wolf has announced The Onyx Path, a subsidiary publishing group that has begun re-releasing the original classic World of Darkness games, beginning with "V20" -- Vampire: The Masquerade - 20th Anniversary Edition.

This news has reawakened my interest in the classic WoD.  As such, I have started running a campaign of a game I tragically avoided, Mage: The Awakening.  In addition to that, my next series of posts will include an in-depth analysis of each of the classic WoD lines.  A "how-to-play" and a "how-NOT-to-play."   Curiosities and observations.  I imagine that once I have finished with the Classic World of Darkness, I may move on to additional Role-Playing Games.  But until then, bundle up tightly, for we take our first step into a world of monsters.  A world... of DARKNESS!