Friday, October 30, 2015

Transylvania Chronicles Redux -- ACT XI

Transylvania Chronicles IV
The Dragon Ascendant
Act XI: The Accounting


(Massive Spoilers)

Summary: It’s 1998, and the characters each receive a letter from Etrius, leader of Clan Tremere, regardless of Sect or prior history. He requests their aid with a delicate and perilous task. Assuming the characters accept, they are provided the finest transport to, and luxurious accommodations while in, Vienna, where a terrible storm rages--one which follows them throughout their journey. They meet with Etrius, who outlines his plan to meet with a leader of the Sabbat, and needs their help as escorts and guards. He seems “off” and unwell, but genuine in his conversations. In the havens provided for them, they are approached by a maid who asks them to steal Etrius’ journal, supposedly at the behest of Tremere. If they do, they discover the horrifying secret that Salout is not dead, but hiding deep with Tremere himself. They then escort Etrius to Atlanta, where the haven provided for them by the Prince ends up being assaulted by a pack of Sabbat. Defeating the attackers, the characters and Etrius then meet with the Sabbat, led by Sacha (nee Myca) Vykos, a former friend and ally of the characters. They must negotiate on the Tremere’s behalf for safe passage to Mexico City and a private meeting with the antribu leader, Goratrix. So arranged, they travel to Mexico City. There, Etrius meets with Goratrix, and manages to transfer the essence of Tremere into the body of his disobedient lieutenant.  The characters are then compelled by the reborn Antedulivian to assist in a great ritual which ends with the destruction of the antribu.

Key factors: Nothing. Nothing that happens here matters. There is nothing for the players to do but escort various people to meetings. Interns have more freedom of action.
At least they final get to see this
git bite it.

Initial Thoughts: It was all going so well. The later adventures in Transylvania Chronicles  had so improved over earlier ones that I had great hopes for this one. And, I get it, this is one of the most significant events in the canon--the destruction of the Tremere antribu, the awakening of Tremere, and the revelation that Saulot is not only still alive, but has been playing a very, very long con. I’m sure for those who read the novels and followed the metaplot closely, this would be an awesome and jaw-dropping scenario.

Not for me, though. I don’t give a damn about the metaplot, or what powerful NPC's are doing to what other powerful NPC's. The characters are powerful elders in their own right by now, and it's high time the game was about them, not the machinations of others. Hell, let them be wrapped up in the machinations of elders, but make them the pawns, not the damn hired help.

There is plenty for the players to DO in this scenario--various places for them to explore, interesting NPC’s to interact with, and enough “what if’s” to keep the game flowing. For example, if the players completely screw up guarding Etrius in the Atlanta safe house, the scenario provides plenty of information to keep the game going and the players engaged, as it moves from an “escort” mission to a rescue one. The writing and scenario structure in fine; it’s the basic plot that is the problem. For the past thousand years (and 10 adventures), the players have been focused on Kupala, Dracula, and the lands of Eastern Europe--to suddenly switch though to a global bodyguard adventure is just off. There’s still so much the players (and myself) DON’T know about when it comes to the seeming “main plot,” that this digression just seems to be a waste of time.

Oh, also, the snarky comments regarding players who are Tremere antribu. Here’s the quote:
Allowing Tremere antitribu characters to escape the fate of their fellows without converting and becoming Camarilla Tremere is not recommended unless you relish the idea of storytelling the “last Tremere antitribu” — all two thousand or so of them played by every other antitribu fan....

Even this asshole might be more
interesting than their plot.
You know something, Brian, Jackie, and Nicky?  Fuck you. I mean, so far I’ve been enjoying your work on Parts III and IV, but are you seriously going to snark and give shit to players and Storytellers like this? Because a troupe wants to keep a long running character who might have survived parts 1-11 of this game (not to mention anything else the Storyteller might have cooked up) alive, and not dead because of YOUR precious bullshit metaplot? Because playing the “last of x” might be new and interesting to them, no matter how “derivative” or “cliche” it might be to YOU. So fucking what if two thousand people had run that game before? Maybe, for this troupe, or this players, or this Storyteller, they haven’t, and for THEM it’s a new and interesting idea. Maybe they just don’t want to put up with your BS. Maybe you shouldn’t tell your audience how lame and badwrongfun THEIR game is.
Sigh. At least it didn't involve Dracula.

Fixes: There is no way to fix this. You need to just ignore and create your own.

We're now almost at the end of the Chronicles and I really don't have any clearer idea of what's going on or what the end game is even supposed to be. Now, I haven't read ahead yet, so this is my idea.

It's the modern nights (er, modern when the book was published, at least)--Gehenna is right around the corner, Kupala is due to rise at any moment, the world is descending into chaos, and the Time of Thin Blood is NOW. In this Act, you destroy everything the characters have built up over the long centuries. Are they Camarilla? Dozens of Thin Bloods and Caitiff pollute their city, and are rising up against your rule, with the Sabbat ready to pounce down and conquer amidst the chaos. Sabbat? War parties abandon the city, pursuing vague rumors of sleeping Methuselah's as the Camarilla eliminates all the pillars of your control. Once loyal childer betray the characters, long running allies abandon them, their own Sect leaders seem to be targeting them, and everything is turning to ashes.

This the Book of Job: The RPG. Everything they care about burns to the ground, every connection is frayed and torn asunder. By the end, the players should be on the ropes, with only themselves and a handful or loyal friends (other PC's) still with them. Everything else is gone by the end.

Those that choose to stand and fight are approached either by another PC or, if not, then Anatole or Lucita or other ancient ally arrives and encourages them to "live,and fight another night." At the end, the see all their dreams and passions burn and know that things are only going to get worse. The End Times are here, and its time to decide where you actually stand.

(Transylvania Chronicles IV: The Dragon Ascendant, written by Brian Campbell, Jackie Cassada, and Nicky Rea. Published by White Wolf Publishing, Inc. 2000. Available for purchase at drivethrurpg.)

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