Monday, August 10, 2015

Twin Cities By Night -- Central Conflict

One of the questions asked about the concept for my upcoming Twin Cities Chronicle is what, exactly, are the two cities fighting over, given that they both acknowledge the legitimate existence of the other? Essentially, they’re feuding over their own supremacy within their own domains, but it’s just complicated given the extreme ease in which the borders can be crossed. Literally, one can take the wrong turn in St. Paul and be in Minneapolis. The presence of such a porous-to-the-point-of-nonexistence border, means that one can easily play both sides. Whether for protection from crimes or issues in one city, or permission to embrace, or any number of decisions. Prince A doesn’t give you what you want? Take it up with Prince B!

But is there more than that? In one manner, no. Fundamentally, I view Kindred as being petty, conservative (note the small “c”), and reactionary. They may claim to represent some higher ideal, but all it really comes down to is two Vamps who each claim supremacy annoyed and pissy about having anyone claiming to be their equal and getting in the way of what they want to do.

However, to another extent, there is a greater conflict than “just” two Princes who are annoyed by each others existence. And it comes down to the entire Theme of the setting. Now, this Chronicle is not intended to “reinvent” Vampire--it is explicitly meant to be an “Old School” game after all. Also, despite my long term affection for the game, I really haven’t played or run it enough to be tired of it’s tropes. Secondly, the Theme I’m working is based purely on the term/idea of “Twin Cities”--and that Theme is Duality.

OK, look, it’s not the most complicated or original Theme. Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark, Human vs. Vampire, Humanity vs. The Beast, Elder or Neonate, etc, etc, blah blah blah. I want to try to pair various characters and concepts with their opposites, but I certainly don’t want to have this duality entirely expressed with any two factions. So, it’s not like “Oh, Minneapolis is Good/Light/Human/Humanity while St. Paul is all Evil/Dark/Vampire/Beast.” That would just be, well, lame, and incredibly thin from a Thematic viewpoint. Not only that, but fundamentally, conflicts like Good vs. Evil are boring, and dull, and just aren’t compelling to me.

So then, what is the central conflict between these two cities? Right now, I’m thinking of “Sacred/Secular.” Both of them are struggling with the concept of “what is the point of being a Vampire? Why do we exist? What is our purpose in the world?” To St. Paul, the answer is “we are chosen by God to Shepherd and guide mankind, and to lead them out of the base material world into a higher, purer spiritual world.” To Minneapolis, the answer is “there is no meaning, there is no purpose. We merely exist.”

As an aside, right now I don’t have any NPC’s named, let alone created, so I’m using the cities names as place holders for their respective Princes/ruling cliques.

So, St. Paul is led by a charismatic Oracle and her devoted followers. The core organization of vampires is a religious Cult. This cult has both vampiric and mortal members, and it teaches a Manichean world view. At its most simplistic base, it teaches that the God of the Old Testament is a false god, and that the True God rises above them. Caine, and thus Vampires as a whole, are sacred creatures who were granted visions of the truth, and as such are tasked with redeeming Humanity from the base (and evil) material world. They have very strict creation rites, as well as numerous monthly and annual rituals. In addition, they are to be involved in the Church and spend their time “guiding” various humans to a greater understanding of their place in the world.

Of course, this guidance is often brutal and unwanted. There was a movie several years ago by David Fincher called The Game, and, yeah, that’s sort of a best case scenario for the mortals who receive such “guidance.” The mortals in the cult follow these teachings, but in many ways it serves as a fantastic equivalent of Freemasonry. Politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, police officers--many men and women of influence are members, and it is through this secret society that the Kindred of St. Paul maintain their domination of the city. It is a controlling, manipulative, and corrupt Theocracy.

Minneapolis is the flip side--they reject the call of the spiritual. But they are just as controlling as St. Paul, perhaps even more so. If St. Paul is the extreme “right wing,” then Minneapolis is the extreme “left” and has formed a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that would make the central planners of the Soviet Union proud. They are the result of a brutal coup decades ago, and their “anarch revolution” has become worse than the Elders they were fighting. Each Tradition has it’s own enforcer, and every vampiric activity (siring, feeding, destruction, even ghouling) requires the “permission of the people.” It maintains a fiction of representing all Kindred (well, not ALL, but those who are “full citizens” at least), and has regular meetings and votes, but the leaders of the “party” still rule with an iron fist.

As such, I’ve rethought my idea for the Prince of Minneapolis. Instead of an inherent innocent who for bizarre reasons has lucked his way into the Princedom, I instead want an old revolutionary who has become a tyrant.

Needless to say, as is true of most Dualistic pairs, the Princes are presenting a false choice to their followers. Neither is “correct” and neither should have absolute claim on any given Kindred. Keeping with the theme of Duality, there are, naturally, two groups that stand outside the Princes, and provide their own center of powers.

The first is the Primogen. In my opinion, the Primogen are not an officially recognized group, nor are they duly elected “Clan representatives”--instead, they are a small group of extremely powerful vampires that the Princes must take into account when making decisions and arranging their own plans. The Primogen stand outside the Minneapolis/St. Paul feud, and instead their power extends throughout the area. Some are Primogen due their their age and great personal power, some due to their influence over mortal affairs, and some due to their respect and leadership among small groups of Kindred. Well, most of them are some mixture, to one extent or another. Obviously, each of these powerful kindred has their own distinct goals and desires, and are, to an extent, above the philosophical conflict between the Princes.

The second is the “below”--the anarchs. Whether due to accident of creation, outsider status, or general disgust at the dichotomy of the cities, numerous Vampires stand outside of the powers. They lack the Primogens clout, however, and as such remain targets, either as “heretics” or “counter-revolutionaries” of either side. There are many who sympathize with their cause, but fear the power of the Princes, and as such do as they’re told, at least on paper, in an attempt to get by and survive. The more bold, or unfortunate, are forced out to the barrens, where they eke out a meager existence, waiting for their chance to strike back. Even with the anarchs there are two major factions--those who remember the Domain of Minneapolis before the revolution, either through personal experience (it is, after all, a young city by Kindred standards) or through tales, and seek to return Kindred society to its “proper” feudalistic domains, ruled by proper leaders with their own territories, and the Prince serving merely as the “first among equals.” The second have taken as their rallying cry “Every Vampire a Prince” and believe in over throwing the entire concept of Elders and leaders.

It is into this mess that our hero walks.

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