Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Narrative Combat in Vampire


For my upcoming game of Vampire, I'm thinking of doing something different with combat. I've never been terribly in love with the standard Storyteller combat system. I've always felt it was a bit clunky and awkward. Since I tend to run fairly combat lite games anyways, I'm thinking of giving the “narrative combat” from the Storytellers Handbook a whirl. Naturally, I'm going to tweak it a bit, though. I think some of this is similar to the New World of Darkness combat, but I'm not sure, as I haven't played a game with that system in several years now. In any case, here’s what I've come up with.

Initiative
Rolling initiative is not necessary for every fight--in some cases it's obvious who should go first, assuming I even bother with turns. In those situations where it's not obvious, initiative will be determined by the following:
     Standard Initiative roll is Wits + Alertness, difficult 4; highest number of successes goes first.
     Non-standard Initiative may apply based on the situation. For example, striking first at a prepared ambush might be Perception + Streetwise, while assassinating a target at a party might call for a Manipulation + Etiquette.


Attack Roll
     Hand to Hand (fists, kicks, grabs, etc): Strength + Brawl
     Melee (daggers, clubs, etc): Strength + Melee
     Ranged: Perception + Firearms or Dexterity + Athletics (thrown or archery)
Note: Potence does factor into the attack, per normal rule (each dot = 1 success).

Defense
Dexterity + Dodge (or Brawl/Melee to parry attacks, if possible)

Damage
Damage is equal to the number of success on the attack rolls. Various weapons can add to the dice pool of the attack.
Weapon
Bonus
Fist
--
Grapple
--
Claw
2 (aggravated)
Knife
1
Bite
1 (aggravated)
Club
1
Sword
2
Axe
3
Stake
2
Pistol
1
SMG
2
Rifle
3
Shotgun
4

Resisting Damage

For mortals, base Stamina.
For vampires, Stamina + 2.
Fortitude functions as an automatic soak against normal damage.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. I'm not 100% sure about some of the numbers, and I might need to tweak them once I see them in action. Of course, I might not worry about it too much, since this isn't meant to be a mechanically tight system, but rather a loose “let’s have fun and see what happens” type thing. I'm also not sure if I even want to keep aggravated damage. I might just change it to normal damage, but still make sunlight and fire highly damaging things vampires need to flee or soak.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New AD&D Setting

An old friend of mine is starting up a new AD&D campaign, here are the initial thoughts:


General theme

This setting (as yet unnamed) is one that rethinks the hackneyed genre of D&D campaign settings. We have become used to a particular feel in campaign settings, ones where fantastic worlds increasingly look like our own. Fantasy cities are places where half-orcs rub shoulders with halflings in ways that we wish various cultures did in our world today (much less in a previous time). Heroes with glittering magical swords stroll peaceably in full plate mail through city streets, and magical spells are routinely cast in a shower of colored lights. Taking a cue also from computer RPGs, disposable monsters pop up in creepy settings to be dispatched over and over again.

But if we return to fantasy literature, none of this feels right. Tolkien is the inspiration for most of us who are fantasy fans – indeed, the Fellowship of the Ring feels like most adventuring parties. But we’ve lost some of the features that made Tolkien’s world breathe so well. Gandalf does not zap lightning bolts from his staff to get rid of the goblin menace. Frodo, Sam, and Bilbo rarely swing a sword. And magic items are rare, unique and special (swords are named and possess histories, and the One Ring…). Modern fantasy gets even less recognizable if we go back to old epics and folktales. We’ve lost the personal element in much of this new, World of Warcraft-influenced notion of fantasy gaming. I’d like to put a little more Beowulf into the mix and a little less 23rd-level Night Elf Ranger.

Here, I’ve designed a world that’s human-centric but with monsters and magic present behind the scenes. It’s one without a great deal of magic, meaning that when magic appears it should be powerful and influential. I take my inspiration from a number of sources: Dark Ages Europe (inc. Beowulf), pulp fantasy (inc. Conan, Lankhmar), as well as the general feel of the magical and fantastic in good modern fantasy (inc. Jonathan Strange).

In game terms, this is designed for a 2nd-edition AD&D setting, or perhaps a modified 3rd-edition. Races should be highly modified, classes might remain quite stable, although the magic system will undergo some changes.

Some ideas:
Low Magic: Self-evident. Does not mean “no magic,” but magic will be strange and unpredictable. NPC priests, wizards, et cetera will be few and far between. They will also vary quite wildly between people and cultures. Some mages, for instance, will use runes instead of texts. Some will eschew any written thing and rely upon memorized songs. Others use blood and bone, and still others have familiar spirits attached to them (“demons,” some might say) that grant them powers. Priests will likewise be malleable. Think “Ill Met in Lankhmar” or Conan for what I’m going for here. PC wizards and priests will continually find themselves searching for magical texts (runes / songs / incantations / shrines / holy artifacts) and should plan to only have access to a few spells (in other words, one’s spellbook is not going to have many entries). That said, PCs should find that magic immediately grants them power and attention from all around. Finally, magic is only rarely an amoral act. Certain paths and powers will have consequences for a person. In game terms, PC mages will still be based upon the Player’s Handbook, but PCs should expect new spells and alterations of previous ones. I will work with whoever plays a mage or priest to develop their character. Possible archetypes might include the classic mage-scholar, in search of ancient lore; a shaman from a barbarian tribe intent on learning the true names of things; a different sort of shaman making contracts and deals with local spirits, et cetera.

Stone Towns: The world is littered with these ruins, called by many different names in many different languages, but most of which translate into “Stone Towns.” These are the remnants of cities built by people (or human-sized beings) of old. They are generally dull, squarish, heavy structures made of impressively-crafted stone blocks that fit into each other precisely, without need for mortar. Often, they gain a bad reputation as being haunted, poisonous, or otherwise undesirable, although many modern cities are built on the remnants of Stone Towns. Some exist partially buried, and some have extensive underground complexes associated with them. Scholars (and those interested in magic) often make studies of or fund expeditions into larger Stone Towns.
Ger mythology claims that they are the spines of the Earth Dragon, a demonic figure with the power to transform people into monsters. As a rule, Ger claim to avoid Stone Towns, although the numbers of Ger in modern, living cities such as Khadat would argue that this rule is noticed more often in its breach than in its observance.

Dark Ages / Medieval Feel: Some conventions popular in fantasy are going to be scaled back.
Bearing arms (that is, things meant to kill other people – i.e. not hunting tools) is not allowed in many cities unless you are the particular man of a particular lord, or a mercenary company that’s trusted and recognized. Allowing just whoever into your city bearing deadly weapons is a sure way to get your city taken over from within. Those who do wear weapons and armor also wear colors, the colors of someone who is accountable for that person’s actions (generally a noble or merchant family). Now, this is not to say that everyone is unarmed in the city. People routinely smuggle their weapons over the wall (and under it), a quarterstaff might be a walking-stick (as might be an unstrung bow), and daggers and slings are common.
There are no signs posted onto the walls. Not everyone can read. Nobles probably can, as can merchants. Priests (of civilized religions) and mages certainly can. Those from religious orders that school children in an organized fashion can. But the vast majority of people get by without reading. One simply does not need to read in order to farm pigs. Most languages are unwritten, the exceptions being Geatish, Old Pskovite, Emeri, and Shan. A number of written dead languages exist, known only to scholars.
There is no Common Tongue. Geats speak Geatish, Emeri speak their own languages. Ger tribes speak a thousand different tongues. Instead of Common, PCs will speak the dominant tongue of the local game setting (e.g. a game set in Khadat will use Pskovite as “Common”) as well as that of their “native” people. Most people are bilingual, and lords often speak a different language from their subjects (the lords of Khadat speak Geatish, for instance).

Human-centric: Demi-humans, etc, might exist, but if they do 1) most people have never met one, and 2) they are sufficiently different from humans as to be not eligible for PC races. An elf, for instance, is immortal, spending centuries honing a particular craft. A dwarf is forged from stones at the heart of a mountain, born and reborn in stone and fire. Magic would come naturally to them in ways that it would not to humans. [Think: Jonathan Strange].

Specific to this game

Players will be human, although I believe the setting has sufficient variety in its human peoples of the world that this won’t be too dull. We will use 2nd-edition AD&D rules, although we can have a conversation beforehand about game systems. I’m willing to pull in elements of 3rd-ed if people want them (there are parts that I personally like, too), so long as the fluidity and ad-hoc nature of 2nd ed is maintained.

Fighters and thieves can come in unmodified from 2nd-ed. Spellcasters are welcome and shouldn’t require too much modification, but people wishing to play spellcasters should work with me to tailor their characters to the game world. In fact, having one spellcaster in search of ancient lore would make early game motivations pretty easy (“I wanna find book Z”).

The ideas I present here are not canon. They are just that – ideas. We can change them around if people have cool ideas (e.g. introduce a secret society of elves posing as humans, who are trying to bring back the Moon Goddess and take down the cult of the Sun, Amon), so long as the “feel” of the world is something that we still all like.

I suck at running structured games. Just ask T or B, who played my last attempt. So what I’m going to do here is begin with something very straightforward (“Go find X” or the like) in the hopes that you will get a feel for your characters along the way. As soon as you do, the game will move forward driven by your characters’ personal motivations and desires rather than an outside force.

I also will not be doing detailed maps, strategy, and the like the most recent game. I admire that stuff, but I just can’t get my head around it. So there’s gonna be a lot of house rules along the lines of: “You wanna shoot the bandit? He’s in the trees, about a hundred yards away. It’s a tough shot.”
“I want to do it”
“Ok. Uh, take a -4 on that because of the tree cover. He’s not actively taking cover, but there’s a lot of trees in the way.”
“I want to shoot him in the leg. We want him alive.”
“That’s a really tough shot, then. Take a -8 on your roll, then we’ll talk.”

Below, you can find all the setting materials. Basically, this game will be set in Khadat, a crumbling northern city, a kind of Venice-meets-Moscow, that lies on the edge of great Eastern trade routes. It’s a city ruled by the Geats (Scandinavians modeled after the old Hanseatic League) but populated by Pskovites (think Russians) and filled with the cultures and religions of the entire world (as befits a trade oasis). It’s also a town built on old, haunted ruins that burrow down into the earth. You can quickly leave Khadat and move on to other places, but that’s where you’ll start. The area around Khadat is populated by a lot of different kinds of nomads, including the warlike horsemen, the Ger, and the more peaceful mammoth-herding migrant Suomi.

If you’re trying to get a “feel” for characters, go watch Conan the Barbarian again. I like the mix of Central Asian, European, and Near Eastern in that movie. Things might be more “developed” than in Conan, but some feel remains. Other good films might be Mongol or go and read BeowulfJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an influence, but that book belongs to a different time than I draw upon here. The computer game Thief is always a big influence on me, as is, of course and inevitably, Lovecraft, but specifically here you could also revisit “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” as Lankhmar, more than any other literary city, is what I imagine Khadat to be.

The World
Geography

The continent – I hesitate to give it a name, as every society has its own name for the land on which it lives – is surrounded on three sides by sea. To the north is a chill body of water, navigable in the summers but dangerous in the winter, with scattered mountainous islands. It is rich in natural resources but hostile in most other ways. To the west is a vast ocean. Some inhabitable islands exist within a few days’ sail, but beyond that there is sea, sea and more sea. And monsters. To the south is a peaceful, warm sea dominated by the galleys of great empires and just beyond that is a rocky coastline studded with populous cities. To the east lies another sea, one of grass. Fierce horsemen move across it, as do rich and heavily-armed caravans from the Shan kingdoms further east.

The people who live on the continent have an easy way of referring to the land. The West refers to the rolling hills and temperate forests of the lands that border the great ocean. This is a place of rich farmland, mild summers and damp winters. Moving east, away from the sea, the snows thicken and the forests grow darker. Life gets more tenuous. The East refers to the other edge of these black forests, where the chill northern sea meets the endless steppe.

North and South are less commonly used in the world, but we will do so here. To refer to those stony isles in the northern sea as a great region of the world would be to give them too much credit. And beyond them is only frozen waste where fire-drakes coil and steam. The term “South” is not used for the opposite reason. The empire of Emer, situated at the edge of the warm southern sea, is not a regional edge of the map, but rather the center of it. As such, it is referred to as “the Empire,” “the City,” or, in some tongues, “inside.”

But one accident of geography thwarts Emer’s claim to true centrality. While Emer sits at a place where trading galleys from the southern continent and the West must cross, to its east lies a vast desert. Shan caravans cannot cross it or choose not to, and with the beginnings of trade with the Shan, Emer finds itself challenged in trade for the first time since its height by the former barbarians of the northern sea.

The West

A few islands lie in the Western Ocean, most the remnants of great volcanoes. Emer attempted a mine in one of these, reportedly a site where adamantium was found, but this mine was lost some years ago (thought to fall victim to a fire-drake). Since the rise of the Geats in the North, Emer has not returned to the region.

The Western Ocean batters the coast of the continent, and the western coast is a scrubby land of hills and brush, ranging from tough, cold, rocky hills in the north to tough, warm, rocky hills in the south. But beyond these hills lies a fertile area crisscrossed by mountain ranges. Within these valleys are pockets of fertile farmland and light forests, fed by rivers that generally flow south, towards the Southern Sea.

To the east, this fertile land grows more and more overgrown. The forests grow thicker and darker and the farmland less and less. This is Pskov.

The East

Ink-black lakes, sharp, snow-crested mountains, and thick hemlock forests. This is the landscape of the East. To the north, the coastline of the Northern Sea provides the best farmland; south of here the forest and mountains stretch until the wine country of the Southern Sea. This area is known for its hostile terrain and fractured politics (see Pskov, below).

But further east, these forests peter out. Trees shrink and the landscape becomes dotted with grazing lands with herds of bison (and the dire wolves that prey on them). Eventually the trees only cling to the riverbanks. After this is the great Sea of Grass. The Sea ranges from tundra in the far north (hosting herds of mammoth) to lush grass east of Khadat, to the badlands of Scythia, and the dry desert east of Emer in which eventually all life gives out.

Beyond the Sea is the land of the Shan, about which only they can tell.

The North

In the far northwest of the world are islands capped by glaciers and volcanoes, making a landscape inhospitable to all but the fire-drakes that live there.  Eventually, these islands become more and more temperate, if no less mountainous, and here the Wild Geats live. As one moves east, the amount of arable land increases and the lands of the settled Geats rise, until the shore of the great Continent rises up at the city of Khadat. Here, the expanse of the sea gives way to an expanse of tundra and ice, where the Suomi mammoth herders live.

The South 
– With the exception of the Stone Towns, which litter every landscape, the South has the longest history of occupation in the continent. Every glen or valley seems to have the ruins of a town clinging to the side of it, where goats now graze. Beyond the mountains in Pskov, the South is dry but fertile, and its inhabitants grow olives and wine and live on the bounty of the Southern Sea. The South ranges from relatively wild scrubland in the West to more and more lush lands as one moves east. At the very easternmost point of the Southern Sea is the city of Emer and the starting point of the great desert that stretches past Emer (and on without end).

Religion
Amonism – Amon, the God of the Sun, is the dominant deity in the religious world of the continent. His symbol is a polished metal disc, preferably of gold. Previously, Amon was the chief god of a series of deities, but some new sects have grown up in recent years.
Emeri Amonism – [The Imperial Church] Emeri place Ayesha the Deathless (Empress of Emer) as the Daughter of Amon and aspect of his power on earth. All temples have her sigil (a lion’s head) in the center of Amon’s disc.
Geatish Amonism – [The New Church] Many Geats reject both the polytheism of their ancestors as well as of the Old Order in favor of placing Amon as a single god, dominant over all. They see Ayesha as an abomination and her church as heretical. Temples have a plain disc.
Pskovite Church – [The Old Order]. The polytheistic cult (with Amon at its head) is still dominant across much of the East. In this sect, Amon has two wives (the waxing and waning moon) and there are various gods and goddesses of hearths, forest, agriculture, etc. The Old Order sigil has a crescent moon above and below Amon’s disc.
Geatish Religion – The Wild Geats (and many Geats elsewhere) still follow the warrior-heroes of their ancestors: kings, heroes and slayers of monsters that fit within a long series of eddas and sagas. This worship is tolerated some places in Geatland and outlawed other places.
Tribal Religion – The various tribal groups in the continent have their own religious beliefs, which differ wildly from each other. Ger and Suomi tribes practice a form of shamanism, wherein a shaman sends his or her spirit out to communicate with other spirits of the sky and land. Desert-Dwellers have their own adaptations of Old Order beliefs, with new spirits and gods.
Shan Religion – Shan do not speak of their religion, but most Shan “priests” carry a document claiming to be from a long-dead Emperor (a dragon, they say) granting them the right of passage in any land. The power of this emperor still flows from this document, they say, through certain individuals.

In game terms, every religion has “priests” of one sort or another. The various forms of Amonism might be self-evident, but please work with me if you wish to play a follower of one of the other religions.

Politics

Most of the political systems in the world are monarchies of one sort or another, although with significant variations. In general, the Emeri dominate the southern part of the continent and various Geat factions dominate the northern part. The Emeri are unified under an empress, while the Geats have a loose federation of monarchies and merchant republics. In the West, there are a number of new kingdoms establishing themselves, and some of these have fallen under Emeri influence, others Geatish influence. In the East, these kingdoms become more scattered and less powerful, and owing to the harsher terrain, both Emeri and Geatish powers have chosen to largely ignore them.

Powers of the South
Emer: Emer lies at the center of most of the trade routes in the known world. It is one of a number of states that have grown on the shores of the Southern Sea for millennia. These have risen and fallen, and now Emer stands predominant. Its dependent cities extend for a short ways up into Scythia, down river valleys and oases to the east and south, and to some extent along the shores of the Southern Sea. Beyond these, however, is Emer’s real power. Through a network of alliances and vassals, Emer controls most of the lesser seafaring states on the Southern Sea. While those troops fighting directly for the city of Emer might be less in number than others, all of those that the Empress can marshal are the greatest army in the world. That is, unless the Shan are to be believed.
Emer is ruled by the Empress Ayesha the Deathless, who has been on the throne for nearly a hundred years. The city is largely her creation, having risen from a minor port town to what it is today over the course of her reign. Emer and its vassal states acknowledge her as a god, the manifestation of the sun (Amun) on earth. Her enforcers, the Manticora, are a group of warriors whose golden shields reflect the purity of their hearts and deeds.
[Think: Persia, Byzantium, Egypt]

Scythia: Less a power than a region. Scythia lies to the north of Emer and is the westernmost part of the Sea of Grass (although it is studded with some rivers and forests). It separates Pskovite lands (and the Geatish city of Khadat) from the Empire. It is inhabited by a few warlike tribes of horsemen of the sort that Emeri leaders call “jellyfish tribes:” once captured, they slip through your grasp. This has to do with their fluid and non-hierarchical societies, where chiefs are temporary and villages mobile. If a chief is captured by an Emeri or Geatish force, his followers reform under lesser chiefs, rendering this captive worthless politically.
Scythians are, for all intents and purposes, considered Ger peoples, although they speak a different language and have a different appearance.
[Think: Scythia, Huns]

Sardis: Emer’s rival on the Southern Sea claims the mantle of the next great Southern empire. Sardis is nothing if not ambitious, and its generals have a hunger for new technologies of war – five-reamed ships, courier-relay systems of rapid communication, etc. Yet for all their ambition, Sardis is small, clinging to the side of the southern continent on the rocky hills. They have a small collection of allies in the region.
Sardisians are considered Emeri for game purposes.
[Think: Carthage, Athens]

FayuumTobruk, Mezze: Vassals of Emer along the southern continent.
Corinth, Smyrna: Vassals of Emer on the northern shore of the Southern Sea.

Powers of the North
Geats: “Geat” is a term used to describe a seafaring people who inhabit the northern shore of the continent and the isles surrounding it. They are divided into city-states, most of which are monarchies. But even Geatish monarchies are not the hereditary institutions that they are elsewhere. Monarchs are elected by a council of nobles, burghers, guildsmen, and peasants (each councilmember in turn elected by its various groups). This allows for a fluid system which places a great deal of power with the respective guilds. In some places, the merchant guilds have staged something of a coup, and rule directly through a council of merchant families.
Geatish polities include:
Vaasa, under King Gustav, the most powerful of the Geatish states. Gustav rose into power ruthlessly, seizing, imprisoning, and sometimes killing rival families and councilmembers who disagreed with him. Thus, although Vaasa’s power steadily increases, Gustav’s reign is fraught by internal division.
Bothnia, under the Bothnian League. The Bothnians are a powerful group of merchant families that have a great deal of influence in the salt fish and naval supplies market. They are slow to adapt, however, and are aggressively attempting to corner the Shan trade. The League has trading outposts throughout Geatish lands and is well-received in most places (excepting Khadat).
Khadat, named for the old stone town (“Kadath”) upon which it was founded, is the easternmost of the Geatish cities. It is the end point for most Shan caravans, and the Khadathi League has just formed in an attempt to keep Shan trade away from the Bothnians. The two states are in an open trade war, although no one wants a real war.
Nordlund, under King Ragnar. A smaller state, and in the west. Occasionally vying with Vaasa, it sees Gustav’s expansionism but domestic weakness as its greatest asset.
Dunland, under King Jan. Dunland is a Western state that has come under Geatish influence.
[Think: Hanseatic League, Sweden]

Wild Geats: The raiders, “Havlingar” or “Villmenn” in Geatish, living at the edges of Geatish space are often Geats who have not embraced Amonite religion and rejected the rule of the “civilized” kings. They farm the stony shores of their islands at times, then set out to sea to raid Geatish, Pskovite, and Western cities when the crops fail. Geatish lords do not see them as a totality, rather, they will often make treaties and alliances with this or that warlord versus a rival.
City names: Fallstead, Rurik’s Hall, Wulfredstead
[Think: Viking]

Pskovite: Like “Geat,” “Pskovite” is a term that is used for a broad spectrum of peoples that are not politically united. These are the small kingdoms (of which Pskov is the largest) of the eastern forests, and possibly the most numerous of the peoples of the continent. These kingdoms range in size from having their centers in glorified manor houses to quite large towns.
City names: Livonia, Samogethia, Sembia, Viborg

Demographics

The peoples of the world fall under several large groups. This is not how they would categorize themselves, but rather how outsiders might see them. Most people might refer to their religion or their kingdom of residence: the former is too broad a category and the latter too specific. Instead, an Emeri clerk records “Geat” when a prisoner from Vaasa comes to trial. This is what we will use instead of “race” in game terms.
Finally, rather than giving different groups different attribute bonuses, I give guidelines. Saying that Suomi ice nomads are ill-used to social niceties in non-Suomi society is often true, but making everyone who plays a Suomi take a -2 to their CHA scores is not quite fair. Instead, I have given general guidelines – the norms, from which PCs can deviate. However, I have given some small modifications, modifications which should apply not to the ethnic stock of a person, but to their background. Should a player wish to play an Emeri raised by Suomi, that character will for most purposes be considered a Suomi.

Desert-dweller – The people who live in the great deserts below the settled fringe of the Southern Sea and those living to the east of Emer share little blood in common. Yet what they lack in heritage they share in lifestyle. These are people who move daily, bringing their camels and horses from oasis to oasis. They live off of goats and sheep and pride storytelling above all else.
They speak their own tribal dialect, often unintelligible to any but their home tribe. Most speak Emeri as well.
They have learned to live with heat and a lack of water, and require less water than others. Additionally, they gain a +2 on heat-related saves OR a +2 on survival.
Many are accomplished storytellers, magicians or warriors. They often have higher CHA and CON, to the detriment of INT and WIS (lacking formal schooling, most are illiterate and often taken advantage of in the cities of Emer).
[Think: Bedouin, Pashtun]
Emeri – The residents of the Deathless Empire consider themselves to be the most civilized people in the world. This extends from the lowliest peasant or urchin to the Empress herself. Here, the term Emeri refers not only to those within the actual Empire, but also those in cities surrounding it (such as Emer’s bitter rival Sardis). While the monarch might be different, the general lifestyle is similar.
They speak Emeri.
Many are accomplished in social arts, gaining a +2 on Diplomacy rolls.
Access to education is the greatest in Emer than anywhere else, although cities are as a rule less healthy than other places. They often have higher CHA and INT while suffering STR and CON.
[Think: Greek, urban Arab]
Geat 
– The Geats are those settled, merchantile peoples of the northern oceans
Geat, Wild
Ger
Kurgan
 – The residents of the scrubby uplands of the West, the Kurgans are proud, independent, and bitter about their domination by Geatish and Western powers. They occasionally raid lowland settlements or band together in war parties following a charismatic leader. They make their living from herding sheep and goats in the rocky hills. The Kurgish knife is renowned for its strength and sharpness, and every Kurgish male carries one.
Kurgans are quick of hand but hot-tempered. They often have higher DEX but suffer WIS. As most Kurgish children have been taught to fight, they gain +1 to hit / damage with small bladed weapons (short swords, daggers).
[Think: Greek, Italian]
Shan – Shan are secretive and few in number. They arrive via large caravans from the East and have set up small centers in Khadat, Emer, and Vaasa. Most are merchants, but there are some fortune-seekers who have come to the West. Shan tend to be well-educated, but ill-versed in social mores in the current continent (INT high, CHA low). They gain a +2 to Knowledge checks relating to Religion, History, and Magic. 
Suomi – 
The Ice Tribes of the northern Sea of Grass are herders of bison, mammoth, and reindeer. They move from place to place
Westerner

Classes and Modifications:
Paladin: The classic paladin might exist as a holy knight in settled Geat or Western lands. But there is another variant in the South, the Manticore. These are heavily-armored warriors whose duty it is to ferret out opposition to the Empress and enforce her will. They must be of the Emeri faith, but may be of any regional background. Their abilities are focused around seeing through deception [e.g. detect lie], protection, and light. Instead of a paladin’s mount, their shields are their source of pride. As a Manticore increases in levels, his shield blazes with the light of Amun, the sun. Should a Manticore stray from the true path, the shield will become increasingly dingy, rusty, and eventually crumble to dust. For this reason, Manticora incessantly polish and maintain their shields – out of fear that they, somehow, somewhere, have committed an infraction.

Conflict
Monsters:
Most evil in the world is caused by men. But this is not to say that monsters do not exist. They do, but they are rare and terrible. Most people have never seen such a thing, and those that have wish they haven’t. Where they exist, they are the objects of fear. They are largely individual, named creatures. One does not say “hags live in the swamp,” one says “Black Annis stalks the moors.” As such, their ecology doesn’t often make sense. Different peoples have different explanations about how monsters came about, but none of them posits these creatures as a separate race living, eating, and reproducing as people do. The Emeri talk of Typhon, the father of monsters, who sowed his children across the land. Geat mythology speaks of remnants of an older age that hide in the dark places of the world. Ger and Suomi people talk about transformation, about how rocks become dragons and people become trolls.
Certain trends persist. Monsters generally fear the light and crave the dark. They exist to destroy (as opposed to natural beings, who destroy, i.e. eat, in order to exist). A dragon might consume an entire city and then nothing for a hundred years, or Black Annis might take only a victim a year. They exist counter to the world of animals and humans. 
Fire Drake [Typhon, Dragon, Orm, Mangkon] – Dragons in this world are recognizable: burning reptiles with scales of steel and breath of fire. Some are named and can speak, and many are accomplished wizards. They haunt the edges of civilization and are few and far between, occasionally emerging to lay waste to entire cities.
In game terms, dragons shouldn’t be that different, although they should be more individualized than the highly categorized lists of dragons that we get in game manuals. Think about Tolkien’s Smaug versus the Dragonlance creatures.
The Dread Host [Chthonis, Goblin, Skraeling, Tengu] – The dark places of the world are sometimes infested with beings of a particularly evil bent. These are short, squat humanoid creatures, covered in dark hair and with luminescent orange eyes that allow them to see in the lightless caverns. They may vary from place to place and are called a thousand different names. In the warm plains of Scythia, they are perhaps the most feared. They inhabit dark caverns in great masses, and on certain nights around the new moon (or on particularly sinister holidays) emerge in vast hordes from the caves, moving across the landscape, terrorizing, devouring, and carrying off any who fall into their grasp. Scythian lore has it that their captives are slowly transformed into members of the Host, or that those seeing the Host on the move are sometimes compelled to join in.
In game terms, the Host should be a new take on the classic “goblin in a cave” model. They appear in overwhelming numbers, not in easily-dispatchable twos and threes. Even a high-level PC caught alone by the Host either at night in the open or underground would be in dire straits. Being more mystical creatures (e.g. no Host farmers, women, children), they are a more dangerous sort of thing than a classic goblin tribe. You cannot starve them out, cannot buy them off, and can only temporarily hold them at bay with torchlight (which is already flickering and dying…).
Their ability to draw others into them also presents another element. Their gibbers and howls feed the darker impulses of our nature. A warrior fighting them off, drenched in blood (and bloodlust) might lost his sanity and join in their destructive rampage. In game terms, a large enough mass of them might produce a confusion effect or, worse, something like a more powerful charm effect.
[Gibberling, Goblin, Grimlock]
Black Annis [Gorgon, Annis, Hag, Yamamba] – On the moors of Pskov, the peasants keep inside at night out of fear of Black Annis. She is taller than the tallest man and has teeth of iron. Most terrible, though, are her arms – long sinewy things tipped with iron claws. She prowls around the homesteads, sometimes killing sheep, sometimes shepherds, and, most dreadful of all, reaches her long arms through the windows to pick children from their beds.
This is a classic Northern European monster. Annis is English, and Grendel is as well (of a sort – the Geats were originally Scandianvian), but the Scandic troll would fit here also. As such it should not require much tweaking to fit here. But what I want to stress is that each hag is unique. Annis is Annis, Grendel is Grendel, Baba Yaga is Baba Yaga. Some are intelligent and magical (Baba Yaga, Grendel’s mother), some are strong and stupid (Grendel), some are cruel and cunning (Annis). They should be each named and specific to a place. They should also be terribly difficult to fight, and most of all should fight intelligently. They are not going to throw themselves at a well-armed party for no reason, and will not fight to the death when they can slink off, lick their wounds, and wait for the heroes to leave so they can resume their deprivations.
[Annis, Hag, Greenhag, Troll, Giant]

(this is what you get when you let an anthropologist run a game...)

Monday, April 15, 2013

First story


Now that I have my basic idea for the first adventure—a “Bug Hunt”—it’s time to work out some details. Years ago one of my friends played a really interesting character based on The Metamorphosis. The basic concept was a man turned by a Nosferatu who just could not deal with the change and ended up going a bit nutty. In the game we played, two of the other characters had befriended him and were trying to help him come to grips with the change and restore his Humanity. Taking that idea, I decide to twist it and turn him into the villain of the piece.

So, the background is that Gregory Samsa (yes, I am a hack when it comes to names) was an average salesman, working at the Greenline Paper Company. He was laid off two years ago, and the company went under soon thereafter. Unable to find a new job, he began drinking heavily and sank into depression. One night, while he stumbled home, he was attacked by a vampire and turned.  He struggled home and hid.
The next few nights were torture for him and his family, as he locked himself into the master bedroom of their apartment. He survived the first few nights on their own and neighbors pets, but finally snapped and attacked his own daughter. She barely survived the attack, and remains in a coma at the local hospital.

Horrified at what he had done, Gregory fled to the abandoned Greenline warehouse, where he now makes his haven. He has lost almost all his Humanity, and has proclaimed himself the “Lord of Vermin.” He has blood bond a number of rats and street dogs, sending them on an insane crusade against others of their kind. His own attacks on humans have become increasingly brazen.

The game begins when the players find a drained corpse at a location they care about (their own club or bar, for example, it will depend on what they create). The goal is simple, find the killer. They will have a difficult time finding allies, as many will shrug it off as either not their problem, or blame the characters themselves for the actions of Gregory.

Because it is a “hunt” I do want to give the players a “hunting area.” I decide as part of this Story to develop a small section of the city for it to take place, with a number of other NPC’s and potential stories happening.  I’m going to start them off in North Charleston, as it is the wildest and least claimed area, perfect for players struggling on their own.

In addition to Gregory, there are two other major conflicts. The first is a looming gang war between the Latin Kings and the new Brotherhood of Struggle. The Latin Kings run this area, and are under the control of Damien, one the Prince’s most trusted advisers. The BoS is a new gang, controlled by the Anarch Haywire, and threatening to ignite a war.  Neither of these have vampires in the area, but the Latin King chief is a competent and dangerous man, while the BoS is led by Freak, a woman who has been promised “the gift” if she proves herself by taking over the neighborhood. Additionally, there is a serial killer at work, a Doctor Feller. He works at the hospital, but also volunteers his time at the local free clinic, and has been preying on the local prostitutes.

Complicating matters further, there are two investigators on the scene. One is Detective Wilson. She was the primary on the Samsa assault, but is also investigating the disappearance of a local prostitute. Her contact, “Honey” believes it is a serial killer, but Wilson isn’t quite sure yet. The other investigator is Jesse Bowman, a reporter for the Post & Courier who is looking into the strange deaths and actions of the local animals. His job is currently at risk, and he is looking for a good story to go “viral.”

There are two local vampires. One is Tobias, a male stripper and the local “lord.” He was once a favorite of his sire Annabelle, and was shuttered out into North Charleston to prove himself. He officially answers to Livinia. He is something of a vain idiot, and has no idea what he needs to do. He will most likely blame everything on the players if things go wrong, and the PC’s will need to play him to get any help at all.  Finally, there is Conrad—a veteran of the anarch cause, he has given up on politics, and now seeks just to get by without drawing any attention to himself.  He is a fence and runs a local pawnshop; he is unlikely to get involved in any case, but will most likely be an excellent source of information for the players, and someone who can give them solid advice, so long as they do not cross him.

Given all that, I need to come up with a couple of key locations for the area/story.  Here is what  I have so far:

Adonis (male strip club)
Trident Medical Center
Samsa’s Apartment
Conrads Pawn Shop
Local Police Station
BoS fortified town home
Silva’s Mexican Restaurant
Community Clinic
Domino Lounge local bar and watering hole

Each of these locations will need a basic write up, maybe even a map. Each of the NPC’s listed above will need their write up based on my standard NPC sheets, and at this level they will need to be fully “statted” up—while it is unlikely the players will get into a fight with Tobias, they might, and they certainly will with Gregory. In general, my go to site for sheets is Mr. Gones. He does amazing work.

Since I have a number of locations, it helps to put them all on a map. I’m going to use one of the districts provided with the Damnation City District Maps. I’ll probably have one for the players, and one for me.

Finally, I think a little about rewards. Whereas in other games players can get rewards besides XP in the form of money or cool items, such rewards are rare in Vampire. Instead, I like to place avenues to increase or get new backgrounds, as these are the key currency of the game. Obvious potential allies/contacts/herd are Dt. Wilson, Bowman, and Honey.  Here’s a rough idea for the XP the players can get

XP Rewards
3 Stopping Gregory
1 Finding out Gregory’s past
2 Pinning the deaths on Dr. Feller
1 Bringing Feller to justice
2 Making Dt. Wilson an ally
1 Making Bowman or Honey a friend

First Story, initial ideas


The first story is always a bit tricky when starting a new game, but particularly so for games like Vampire. Since so much of the game is dependent on the characters, it is almost impossible to come up with “generic” stories that will fit any coterie, and yet when creating the first story you are working with a blank slate. Since my players haven’t created any characters yet, I have no convenient hooks (like missing sires or desires to discover a cure for their unfortunate condition) to rely upon. And yet, I need to come up with something, as I don't want to spend the entire first session just creating characters, nor do I want to rely on just “winging” it and run the risk that the game might fall flat.

First off, let’s review my outline, and what I’m hoping to accomplish at this stage in the game development process:
4 First Story
   4.1   Develop a basic first story to kick the game off
   4.2   Keep it flexible enough to handle a variety of PC types, as the PC’s are not yet created
   4.3   Story Outline
      4.3.1          Concept
      4.3.2          Subplots
      4.3.3          Theme/Mood
      4.3.4          Plot Summary
      4.3.5          Key NPC’s—some from the general City pool and some created for the Story
      4.3.6          Rewards for completing the story
      4.3.7          Conditions for Success and Failure
      4.3.8          Rough idea for consequences based on players actions

Most of this advice is taken from the Vampire Storytellers Handbook. I’m not going to follow all of it, but I will be using it to frame my first story.  Since I don’t have any PC’s yet, I want to review what I do know of my players, and try to think what they need and would want from the story.

I have three players, one of whom has played some Vampire before, but not a lot. Another has played Werewolf years ago, and the third has never played any White Wolf game before. All of them are relatively new or casual players. As such, I cannot assume that they know anything about the system, from skill checks to disciplines. They won’t know how blood works (increasing physical stats or healing), nor will they understand how Virtues, Humanity, or Willpower works.

In other games they have played, they have been more of a “kill first, ask questions later” type of players, so I can assume they will follow the same approach in this game. Now, as a veteran Vampire player/storyteller, I can tell you that these tactics are a great way to get your character killed by someone higher up on the food chain. But in the case of my Charleston, this viewpoint works well—the players are supposed to be young anarchs whom the Elders inherently hate and fear. If the players can piss off these Elders because of actions they actually DID, all the better. It makes the game stronger to have someone hating them because “you killed my grandchilde” rather than “ you're young, and therefore I hate you.”

Of course, given that, I cannot assume they will all be playing Brujah or anything. They're just as likely to pick Tremere or Ventrue or something, and just play them like hyper-violent vigilantes.

Finally, they’re not looking for a serious dramatic game where somber people meditate on the cost of ones humanity—they’re going to want to run around and kill things and blow things up. We’ll probably be sitting around and joking, maybe having a few drinks, and just looking to have fun.

Given that, I want a pretty bare bones Story, something that the players will get pretty easily and be able to follow. I’m not a huge fan of “training” adventures in RPG’s, so I don’t want to include a walkthrough of key rules of the game, but I will be pausing the game to explain how things work if/when it  comes up.

So, given that, I’m going to go with a “bug hunt” style adventure. There’s someone out there messing things up for the coterie. They lack the clout or the information to rely on some authority to handle this, and so they are forced to deal with it on their own. They’ll have to run around a good chunk of the local area, meeting various people, dealing with a couple of threats, before finally confronting the big nasty and taking him out. It’ll be a bit heavy on the physical side of things, but I think it’ll be a good way to get them used to the mechanics and their characters.

Next up, I start working on the story proper.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Devil is in the details


One of the joys and dangers of creating a setting is the desire to just KEEP creating. As I finished up my major NPCs, each one seemed to call out for a host of others—enemies, childer, sires, rivals, allies, etc. But, I'm trying to keep to the “ don't create more than I have to” mantra, and so I'm putting the brakes on creating any more NPCs for now.

But, in the process of creating them, new facets of the city started to come to light. As such, I've gone back over my initial notes and ideas for the city and began bringing them together with both more detail and in a way that will help make it easier to run the game.

Much like the major NPCs, I've gone back and given each of the major areas of the city a one page write up. The reason why I try to keep each thing to one page, and each having their own page, is for ease of use in the game. I'm not really a huge fan of having a computer or a tablet at the gaming table, so keeping things on the blog or a wiki won’t do me any good. I’ve been in some games where the GM had all his notes online and they were…ok. But it did take me out of the game much more when he had to look to his computer than it did when he flipped through a book or a pile of notes.

So, when it comes to neighborhoods, I’m looking for extremely broad things. Each one gets the following write up:

Name
Map (one of the virtues of picking a real city is all the neat maps you can find online)
Overview: a generic summary of the place. Most of these are what I posted about them in the first place
Major Locations: both named areas like specific clubs or havens, as well as generic or “iconic” places.
Significant NPCs: whose there, and what are they probably doing?
Notes: random ideas, odd details, adventure ideas, etc.
As the game progresses, I'll be adding more to these sheets and possibly subtracting information that is no longer useful or interesting. Of course, these are really broad categories. Depending on how the game goes, I can see myself doing similar write ups for more specific neighborhoods in each area, as well as for specific locations. In a previous game I ran, I wrote up a short sheet for each of the players “territories”—the various clubs they controlled, their havens, and other places. At this level, I felt comfortable to not only provide general information, but also to provide specific mechanics.

For example, if a player controller a particularly popular club, he might have an effective "herd" rating while in the club, while others would hunt and a reduced difficulty. Since the club was known as "belonging" to that particular vampire, other kindred had a penalty to their social rolls and disciplines while they were there—it was his “turf” after all. Another player controlled the local university, so she not only had bonuses to her hunting roll while feeding there, but also received a bonus/reduced difficulty for “research” rolls (languages, occult, etc.).

Of course, all this will have to wait until  the PC’s are actually created and the game begins, but I'm looking forward to finding ways to make the players backgrounds come to life, both dramatically and mechanically. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Anarchs of Charleston


So, as I was thinking about Charleston this morning, I realized that I had forgotten a key element in the War of Ages—the anarchs!  How could I possibly have a teeming, violent city on the verge of all-out war and NOT have a group of desperate young Kindred just waiting for the chance to burn the place down?  Truly, this was a terrible oversight on my part.

Now, I’m not generally a fan of the later treatments of the anarchs as a global “sect” struggling against the Camarilla and the Sabbat. I prefer my anarchs more locally focused—those who are fighting to save THIS city or take down THIS prince. So, I’m going to ignore most of the works on the anarchs, and instead focus on those solely from Charleston, and how they fit into the great drama that is unfolding.

The majority of Kindred political leanings are divided between the two great factions, the Prince and the Lords Proprietors. Depending on which side one falls, one either believes the city needs a strong central leader to handle the changing chaos of the city, or believe that local control is best. Around the Prince and each Lord are a core group of followers and allies, their individual “courts.” Most Vampires aren't part of these courts, and instead must tolerate these elites as they go about trying to live their own unlives.

Some however see the entire system as being the problem, and feel that it needs to be replaced in total. They are generally the young or others who have been shut out of positions of privilege and power, though there are those who are true believers. Many of them felt that Vesey was “one of us” 20 years ago, and fully supported his war against Robert. Indeed, for the most part, the various Lords sat out the war.

Many had great hope for Vesey, and supported his rule during those first few awkward years. However, a city like Charleston is difficult to preside over, and tensions began piling up. Vesey seemed unwilling or unable to break the rule of the Lords, and his followers began to take increasing independent action. It was all the Prince could do to keep the minor “poaching” and infringements from escalating to a war.  Eventually, there were too many violations of both tradition and the Traditions, and Vesey was forced to act against his own followers, lest he lose the Princedom altogether.

One young Kindred named Amelia had embraced without permission, an occurrence that had become disturbingly regular. The Prince held her and her childe up as an example, and had them summarily executed in a public show trial. Many of the anarchs believe that Amelia was setup, as Damien and his crew seized her within hours of the supposed embrace. The anarchs did not respond well to the show of force and law.
A week late, a particularly fanatic group of anarchs set an ambush for the prince, detonating a car bomb near where he sat in front of a group of mortal businessmen, then charging forward in full view of the kine with automatic weapons. The Prince fought them savagely until Damien and Annabelle could come to his rescue. The Prince declared a Blood Hunt on any and all anarchs, and the Month of Blood began.

The anarchs were unprepared for the war, and divided amongst themselves. The brutality with which the Prince stuck took them by surprise, and dozens of anarchs met Final Death during that horrible month. The war ended when the dominant members of the anarch cause were brought forward to the Prince. Some were forced to drink his blood, a few were exiled from the city, while the rest were executed in public.
Now, a handful of dedicated anarchs still survive, hiding among the warrens of North Charleston, seeking allies and an attempt at revenge against the Prince, who many still believe orchestrated the entire thing. They survive only by placating the “Pretend Lord” Lavinia, whom Damien has propped up to keep some semblance of stability in the area.

There is another faction, though, and one that is perhaps even more dangerous. To the south is James Island, ruled by the Toreador Trent Richards. Trent has little interest in being a Lord, and is more content to play his music, and spend his nights engaged in petty games of one-upmanship with Annabelle. Into this vacuum has stepped his childe, Haywire. His Brotherhood of Struggle is not only a multi-ethnic gang, but he has also drawn a number of anarchs and would be anarchs to his banner. His message is different than those of the past. While they were happy to argue that the war most be won first, with the details of the new Utopia to be determined later, Haywire preaches living without a Prince in the here and now. He believes, truly, that once the rest of the city sees that Kindred do not need a Prince or Lords to maintain the Traditions that the system will change on its own.

It’s been a surprisingly effecting message, and his followers have grown in number. The Prince and his court are aware of this neonate and what he’s up to, but so long as he keeps the peace in James Island, Vesey could care less. He has greater problems to deal with, such as the remaining anarchs of North Charleston, the Lupine attacks along Daniel Island, and the looming threat of a coup launched by his clan mate, Michael King.  Not to mention the near endless quarrels and violence that mark a city full of undead.
This “hands off approach” will most likely come back to haunt the Prince. Not only is Haywire’s message taking hold among those who wish to “drop” of Kindred society, but the flaws in his theory are starting to come to light. So far, he has been able to restrict such major violations as Embrace to those clever enough to get away with, and targeting the Destruction on those who truly deserved it. But now his followers are clamoring for more freedom, and when they vote for a mass embrace, where each can be a sire, Haywire will be forced to go along with it.

If a single unauthorized embrace made public could result in the Month of Blood, one shudders to think what such a demonstration could cause.

Monday, April 8, 2013

NPC's of Charleston, detailed

I was able to get some of my NPC's detailed so far. The Court and the Lord's Proprietor are done, and while I still have the "powers that be" to work on, I'm fairly happy so far. Of course, as I create each one, at least one or two (and sometimes several) other NPC's spring to mind, but I'm deliberately NOT going to work on those yet. I want to wait and see what kind of characters my players come with first before I start creating any new ones.

Now, as I mention in a previous post, I don't worry too much about "statting" up these characters. For one thing, most of them are pretty old and powerful, and could probably wipe the floor with new PC's. But also, the stats can easily come later as needed--what's more important for the game is who they are, what they want, and what they heck they are up to.

I'm not going to post all of them, as that would be a huge post and rather boring. Instead, here's a sampling of what I have so far:

The Prince

Vesey
Birth Name: Denmark Vesey (Telemaque)
Personal Masquerade: Joseph Vesey, a wealthy philanthropist and lawyer
Appearance:a dark skinned and handsome older black man
Role: Prince of Charleston
Theme: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
Perceived Goal: To crack down on all dissent in the city, unifying it under his control
Actual Goal: To rid himself of the various bonds that have been placed on him, eventually becoming truly free
Haven: has numerous ones throughout the city, but his primary ones are a classic townhome in downtown Charleston, as well as Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant (former masters).
Base of Operations: He spends his nights in and around downtown, but isn’t tied down to a particular place. He holds court on the night of the full moon at St. Phillips, but often has other meetings at the old African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is not officially Elysium, but none dare desecrate this place.
Herd: As a Ventrue, Vesey is limited to feeding on ex-cons. Originally, it was former slaves, but it has changed since Emancipation to anyone “freed from bondage.” He uses his influence to keep the “revolving door” of justice going, ensuring he has a large, easy to access herd.
Influence: The most influential Kindred in the city. As Prince, his judgement on the Traditions are unchallengeable, and this influence is growing. He has a core group of dedicated followers willing to enforce his will throughout the city. In mortal affairs, his philanthropy gives him access to numerous people and areas,  as well as  “special consideration” when it comes to politics and the police. Many ambitious public servants are eager to have him as their patron, and few would question giving him favors.
Notes: Once a slave who fought for others freedom, Vesey is now a tyrant. He was embraced shortly after his “execution” and made to serve a cruel Dominator who delighted in tormenting him. Vesey finally made a deal with (someone, not sure if it was the Sabbat, a powerful Mage, or even a Demon) to release him from his bondage. He slew his sire and became a powerful Anarch. He succeeded in slaying the tyrant Robert Mills, and assumed control of his city. He initially sought to bring peace among his kind, and treat all fairly and justly. However, the demands of his position, the compromises and deals he had to make to get where he is, and the deal he made with Someone all conspire to corrupt and warp this once noble man. In recent years he has become less patient and more violent, and increasingly willing to use violence to enforce his rule. He is also starting to withdraw from Kindred affairs, seeking the solace of religion and the belief in Golconda, praying that this miraculous state will finally free him from all of his bonds.

Plots:

  • The Prince has no “official” investigators, and relies on other Kindred bringing issues before his court. He might task the players to look into various events. If they do well, he might grant them “official” status as part of his ongoing attempts to bring the city to heal
  • Strange individuals are wreaking havoc throughout the city, and the Prince is unwilling or unable to respond. They are related to the someone he owes so much to.
  • An ally of the players is trying to “clean up” the streets by imposing stricter sentencing laws. Vesey views this as a direct threat to him and has the ally killed. Will he target the PC’s as well?

One of his advisers
Rhett
Faction:Court
Clan:Ventrue
Birth Name: Rhett Burnett Mayback (goes by Burnett Mayback nowadays)
Personal Masquerade: A powerful, semi-retired lawyer
Appearance: A powerfully built and handsome white man, still youthful despite his graying temples.
Role: Corrupt Adviser
Theme: Serpent in the grass
Perceived Goal: be the power behind the throne
Actual Goal: turn the city into an abattoir
Haven: mansion on the outskirts of downtown
Herd: The fearful. Rhett is drawn to those who are terrified, but it must be of him, personally. He keeps a number of terrified victims locked up beneath his house, but he also has several he is “cultivating”--stalking, sending them threatening messages and pictures, etc.
Base of Operations: He still has an office at Nelson & Scarborough, LLP. But he spends most of his nights either hunting, by the princes side, or doing all he can to forment chaos.
Influence: it is well known that Vesey trusts him, implicitly, and he is often the “gatekeeper” to the Prince.
Notes: Like Damien, he is using his influence over the Prince to make him more violent and dictatorial. Unlike Damien, Rhett does this not to increase his own power, but to pave the way for Gehenna. Whereas Annabelle is Ianna’s protector and servant, Rhett is her devoted follower, and dedicated to turning Charleston into a welcome sacrifice for the Antedulivians.
Plots:

  • Rhett’s hunting targets a mortal a players cares for.
  • If the players come to the Prince with an issue, Rhett will speak to them first, and appear a smiling and sympathetic ally for their cause. Of course, he will “interpret” it for the Prince in the worst way possible, causing a violent overreaction. All the while, he will “do what he can the help” the players.
  • If the players ever discover the truth of Ianna, Rhett will be there most dangerous foe, using subtlety and misdirection to expose and slay the characters. Ideally, they will never know he is there true foe.
One of the Lords Proprietor

Ghazi
Faction:Lords Proprietor (West Ashley)Clan: TremereBirth Name: Ghazi AbuhakemaPersonal Masquerade: Research Professor of Oriental Studies at the College of CharlestonAppearance: a plain looking by charismatic older arabic manRole: Leader of Tremere, Lord of West AshleyTheme: questioning can be dangerousPerceived Goal: Use his absolute authority over his clan to influence and control the rest of the cityActual Goal:establish his basic authority over his warring underlings, discover the truth of the cityHaven:A quiet house in a nice suburb near campusHerd: particularly gifted and scholarly young menBase of Operations: The College of Charleston. The Tremere Chantry is actually located nearby in the lower levels of an office park.Influence: Not as much as many think. The Tremere have relied on “sub-infeudation” to control their territory. Ghazi is new to the city, and many or the locals still doubt his position or his tenure. Still, he is a Lord and head of the Tremere, and none dare refuse a direct order. Also, he’s a crazy powerful mage, so you really shouldn’t mess with him.Notes:Ghazi was turned over a hundred years ago by a British Tremere in Cairo. He has since travelled the world, exploring long forgotten ruins and is close to uncovering the truth of Gehenna. His predecessor Parker had sent disturbing reports to the Clan before his mysterious disappearance. Officially, he was killed by Lupines, but Ghazi is exploring what really happened.
As a powerful but weakly connected Elder, Ghazi could emerge as an ideal patron to the players.
Plots:

    • Ghazi is looking for allies to help him in his investigations. He will test (read: mess with) various young kindred to see who has potential. He can cause all kinds of mischief for the PC’s just to see how well the respond
    • Other Tremere are sick of waiting, and insist on retaliation against the Lupines, potentially starting off a war
    • Various Tremere in-fighting, based on the clans of the PC’s
     


I'm fairly happy with my NPC's so far, so once I finish up the Powers that Be, I'm going to go back to the neighborhoods and give them a bit more personality and color. After that, I'll be ready to work on the first story!

Sabbat Pack Creation: Traits and Options

In the previous post I talked about the basic rules for the creation of the Sabbat Pack. In this post, I want to look at the individual c...