Saturday, July 18, 2015

Transylvania Chronicles Redux -- Act V

Transylvania Chronicles II
Son of the Dragon
Act V: Haceldema

(Massive Spoilers)

Summary:The characters are invited to the Convention of Thorns, either in person by old friends Anatole and Lucita, or separately by missive. They plan and make the harrowing trek from Eastern Europe to the far away town of Thorns, England. Eventually, they arrive at the Abbey of the Sacred Crown, the location of the “peace negotiation” between Anarchs and Elders to end the raging war. They meet various characters--some old, such as Myca Vykos, but many more new. The exact issues of the peace are heavily debated, with many polling the characters thoughts and concerns. There is, in addition, numerous opportunities for other encounters; many friendly, others...less so. Eventually, peace is declared, as the bulk of the Anarch leaders submit themselves before their Elders. Those few who refuse engage in one final, desperate act of defiance, and wipe the town of Silchester from the map in their rage.

Key Factors: Travelling to the Convention of Thorns. Ending of the Anarch Revolt.  Desperate extremists splinter off to eventually form the Sabbat.

Initial Thoughts: This is a tricky one. One on hand, I can totally see how this would be an awesome adventure for certain troupes. Those who thrive on social roleplaying would find this to be a perfect framework for a kick ass session, as would those who are really into the nitty gritty of the World of Darkness canon and metaplot. Even better, those Storytellers who don’t feel bound by canon can use this adventure as the “point of departure” and enable the players to effect major changes to the game setting, turning it truly into their World of Darkness.

On the other hand, those who aren’t as interested in roleplaying through a version of Model UN, or who aren’t terribly interested in the Anarch/Elder war, or who care little for the thrill of being at THE Convention of Thorns--well, they probably aren’t going to terribly enjoy the adventure, as it is presented. Even for them though, simple being at such a major gathering presents numerous adventuring ideas--more action oriented folks can take the role of defenders of the gathering, hunting down extremists who seek to disrupt the proceedings. More investigative types might have to deal with a mysterious murder that might unravel the delicate environment if not handled properly. More so than any other Act, V presents a strong backbone to allow the individual games to tell their own stories. It’s success or failure depends on what the Storyteller does with it. Though, as a mild criticism, this makes for a less than ideal “pre-published adventure,” after all.

In addition, now that we are at the end of the Anarch Revolt, perhaps the pivotal moment in published Vampire history, it’s time to think about the Transylvania Chronicles have handled it. And all I can think of is “poorly.” Act III involves the characters  in one of the major early events as a denouement and as minor figures. Act IV pushes the ongoing war to the background. Act V is its resolution. I’m sure the authors intended each Storyteller to tell their own stories set at this time. However, that’s a poor defense when dealing with such a published book of adventures, particularly since the books don’t even include any advice for either running such stories.

Now, in the author's defense, I feel that they were somewhat constricted by the published canon, particularly by the world as presented in Vampire: The Dark Ages. The conflicts presented feel very much like 20th Century issues and concerns, and the Anarch Revolt and the subsequent events don’t feel nearly apocalyptic enough. It is hard, though, to blame the authors for such issues, and whatever issues I may have belong more properly in a separate post.  

Fixes: Due to the extreme amount of character driven actions in Act V, it is difficult to think of exactly what one would need to do to make this work. As I mentioned, there’s plenty of room for a variety of actions for those players who have little interest in the negotiations themselves. But there are a few things that one should do to get this adventure really humming.

More talk, less slaughter. I thought
this was supposed to be a GAME!
First off, major issues have to be decided by in-between stories, or, as I’m planning on running this, via “blue-booking”/downtime management. Specifically, where the characters sympathies lie, and what sort of status (if any) the characters posses among their allies. Players arriving at the Convention as brutal Archons for the Camarilla will have a very different time than those who are leaders among the Anarchs, or those who seek to maintain a degree of autonomy and separation from the war.

Secondly, I would enumerate the various issues that are left to be decided. Those presented in the book include such things as: how to reintroduce the rebels and Anarchs to Camarilla society, how to handle the Assamite threat, and what structure the enforcement of the Camarilla should take. I’d probably add to these and tweak them based on the characters, and I really don’t think the Assamite issue should be resolved here.

Then, I would detail various NPC’s, and where they stand on the issues. I would also determine various ways to influence these figures--reason and logic, flattery, bribery, seduction, blackmail, and straight out threats. Each would be more susceptible to different means of influence. Some fall easily to bribery, while others react violently to the mere notion. The players would need to figure out who the decision makers are, how best to get to them, and try to play them to support their agenda. Any necessary rolls would be handled by the Storyteller, as the players won’t know what worked and what didn’t until the votes are properly cast.

Can they fail? Oh, yes. The default assumption is that history unfolds as it did. The players can attempt to twist this to their own ends. Let’s say they are hard core Archons seeking to crush the Anarchs finally (and, metagame, prevent the Sabbat from ever forming). Great success, and the Sabbat is reduced from “rival nation” to fringe terrorists in the future. Great failure, and the Convention of Thorns falls apart, with perhaps the Camarilla being a historical footnote, as the Sabbat becomes the force of Cainite life in the future.

Even those who aren’t politicians can face such failure. The Anarch bad asses providing security can fail to stop the Lupine threat, only to see their leaders wiped out and poor negotiators take their place. Or, they success wildly, and even the moderate Elders have to admire their actions in favor of all Kindred, helping the Anarchs to get a better deal.

(Transylvania Chronicles II: Son of the Dragon, written by Brian Campbell and Nicky Rea. Published by White Wolf Publishing, Inc. 1998. Available for purchase at drivethrurpg.)

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