Friday, June 23, 2017

Vampire 5th Edition, After Action Report

I was finally able to run a game with the 5th Edition play-test rules, using the provided scenario The Last Night.  I've posted previously my thoughts on the new rules based on a read through, but seeing them in action is a different thing all together.  This post will be divided into two sections--the first on the rules, and the second on the scenario.

Rules

In general, I like the new rules. Of course, the ones provided are very limited. There are significant aspects from the game missing, including some very basic ones. This is not a set or rules I'd hand to a new Gamemaster who wants to run their own game for the very first time. But, the audience is clearly for those who are already playing Vampire, so that's fine.

But, more or less, my initial impressions wore born out in the play 

The only real complaint is how many things one needs to keep track of with the new system. Willpower, Composure, Hunger, and Rouses all fluctuate throughout the game, and each needs to be tracked and altered on a near constant basis. Having tokens or the like might help with this, but we were playing over Roll20. Despite their design goal to simplify and speed up the majority of the mechanics, there seems to be a lot more book keeping associated with these rules. Each rule works well on it's own, but in total it can be distracting. I generally prefer the rules to play as little role as possible in the Story, and let the players focus on their characters and what they're trying to accomplish. Having to constantly track every little thing can snap you out of that.
The Last Night

I'm not terribly good at reading a module. It's one of the problems I have as a Gamemaster in general. And it's one of the reasons I spent so much time going through Transylvania Chronicles--because when I just read the adventure, I often miss some critical things that only end up haunting me later. And there were some issues that only became apparent in play.

But, first, the adventure is decent, particularly for a play-test. It showed off the rules, everyone seemed to have a good time, and it had enough tension and energy to last the entire session. Of course, I am judging it as a con/play test module, rather than a standard module like Alien Hunger, let alone an epic like Giovanni or Transylvania.  Which means I imagine the writing process went something like this: 1) come up with some cool scenes to show off the rules, 2) come up with something resembling a plot to tie these scenes together, and 3) create characters that will follow said plot. Fortunately in my play through, the character of Amelina was more or less sidelined for most of it, so that element of the game was downplayed. Though I did follow +Jennifer Fuss 's advise and age up her feeding to teenagers.

For as much as I liked it, I did run into a few problems. Some the result of the developers, some due to my players being clever assholes, and some just due to random fate. Let's tackle them in reverse order:

No Module Survives Contact With the Players

So, the characters begin the game hanging out in a casino, talking about what's been going down lately. For some reason, it's extremely late and they all should be finding new havens after the chaos, but that's just the way things are. Suddenly, there's a terrorist attack on a club they have every reason to believe a "friend" of theirs might be at and after some debate they all head over to it. So far, so good.

The module is well-written enough to provide multiple paths to get to the club. Sneaking around alleyways, jumping over roof tops, bluffing you way past the distracted police, using Disciplines, etc. My players thought "yes" to all these options, and split up, each approaching the club on their own. Which means even when they got into the club, they were still not "together," instead running around on their own, all trying to do their own thing. Which was fine, until they found the stairs into the cellar. The stairs are very delicate and about ready to collapse, which the first player down discovered. The second player was leery of them, and decided to just try to jump down it, to avoid them all together. I had him make a roll to pull it off without hurting himself, and he failed, but by one. I gave them an option to succeed at a cost, that he could land without getting hurt if something else bad happened. They all voted to have crash into the stairs. Well, there go the stairs, and half the coterie is now stuck on the ground level.

They got to spend the rest of the module dealing with the cops.

Clever Girl

So, one of the PC's is the main villain of the piece (um...spoilers? I guess. Whatever, this is an After Action Report!). And I deliberately gave that character to the most experience Vampire player in the group. He was smart, he was clever, he was a freaking monster, and he easily "won" the game. And he did it by playing Bruno as presented.  And Bruno is presented as bitter, petty, jealous and, above all else, Patient. As soon as they entered the club, he activated his Obfuscate and just watched what everyone was doing. Later, when challenged, he had a reasonable excuse for why he wasn't there. He took the minimal actions necessary to screw over the coterie, and watched with glee from the shadows as they ran themselves ragged thanks to his actions. Actions which led them into direct conflict with the Anarchs of Berlin, and their brutal beating and capture.


My Players Don't Need Any Help Turning On Each Other

My favorite module for Vampire remains Alien Hunger. It's just a wonderful setup for a one-shot/micro-Chronicle. The players begin as mortals who are friends, or at least friendly. They are then turned into vampires, have to experience the horror and blood lust of the change, and are forced to work together to face the challenges that come with their new existence. And each time, but the end of the Story, the coterie has torn itself apart. Either due to morality, ethics, tactics, or just personality--they group never survives in tact.

In The Last Night, they group is already at each others throats. Some are utter monsters, others want to kill other members. And one of them is actively and deliberately working to destroy the whole thing. I know the new developers of Vampire are heavily influenced by Nordic-Style LARPS, where heightened emotion and personal struggles are emphasized, while "traditional" challenges (solving mysteries,  for example) are down played or non-existent. But, by creating characters who are so obviously at odds with each other, it almost hindered the ability of the players to make the characters their own. Just having four characters who were basically only together because of Andre, and who had their own view of the world and their place in it would have resulted in a far more organic inter-coterie conflict. And one I think would have been a lot more enjoyable. 


In fact, the one significant critique of the session came from the player of Bruno, who felt he was playing an NPC to the game, with little freedom of action. He had his goals, he had the personality, skills, and contacts necessary to accomplish them, and he spend most of his time "off camera." I would have been happier if the dissolution of the coterie resulted from the choices of the players, rather than from those of the writers. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What is the point of Vampire, anyway?

Since the release of the V5 play-test rules, and particularly the included scenario, The Last Night, there has been a lot of outrage at the characters provided. Specifically, the character of Amelina. You're free to download the scenario yourself, so I won't go into too many specifics, beyond the most obvious. She is a monster. All four of the provided characters are monstrous assholes to one extent or another, but Amelina stands out as singularly vile. If an NPC, she would be the "big bad" of the adventure. As a PC, she is, to put it delicately, "problematic."

Personally, I embrace the idea that she is a monster, and one the other characters should overcome in their adventure. Yes, she's vile and despicable, but she is so vile that one couldn't even pretend that she anything but an obstacle to be overcome. This, however, might be overly generous to the authors of the provided scenario. I really have no way of knowing what they intended, or what they're trying to accomplish with this character, or where they intend to take the game. I've talked briefly about this before, but I want to look at a broader question. Just what is the point of Vampire?

First off, it's a game. You sit around with your friends and pretend to be vampires. You might stand around with a whole bunch of people if you're LARPing. The goal is to have fun--get involved in mysteries and action adventures and try to overcome impossible odds. Maybe you focus on grindhouse horror. Maybe you like long trench coats and awesome action and fighting. Maybe you're all about the political maneuvering of various groups. Whatever, so long as your having fun. But, is Vampire really any different from any other RPG?

And this is where it gets thorny. One answer I like is "no." It's a game, you have fun, it's just the tropes and conceits that vary. I'm an old-schooler at heart--I like random tables and random encounters and the like. The "story," such as it is, is the result of what happens at the table. The interaction between Storyteller and Players, between the characters and the world.  The story isn't some platonic ideal imposed on the players, but the natural result of their actions and choices.

But the other answer is "yes"--vampire is somewhat different. It's a story of personal horror, a story about the lack of self-control, and coming to terms with the evil that resides in all of us. And this is the defense for Amelina--yes she is a monster. But, Vampire is a game about being monsters. So what, exactly, is the problem?

The problem is that Vampire is not a game about being monsters. It is a game about confronting and overcoming the monster inside us. I want to quote the 1st Edition Core Book here. Sure, the writing is typical early-White Wolf "artistry"--but I think it's important to try to understand what Mark Rein*Hagen and the others were at least aiming for. Even if you don't agree with their goals, or feel that they failed to accomplish what they wanted.

We must learn not to expel the dark side, but to harness it instead. We must somehow come to terms with the Evil, accept and understand it, and then, finally, overcome it...You can not reason with the dark side, it does not understand our world of logic and reason. It must be attacked in a different way. We must become, in order to overcome.

And to me, that's the key. Vampire isn't about playing a horrible monster and glorifying in your evil.  It's about confronting the evil that lurks inside all us, and finding someway to overcome it. To face the horror within and emerge a stronger, better person for it. The big bad evil threatening to the destroy the world isn't an ancient thing waiting to rise and consume all. It's part of you, within you, and if you fail to understand and master it, it will master you.

You don't have to play Vampire this way, of course. You can treat it as a tool to tell awesome John Wick style action stories and it works great. Even if you do try to play it this way, you need to vary it up. You need action and romance and broad comedy to make a story work. Hell, even Shakespeare included dumb comedy in Hamlet, and if it's good enough for the Bard, it's damn good enough for us.

But if you do, you have to understand that the more evil and vile the character in question, the sharper the divide needs to be between acceptance and condemnation. If you choose to embrace Vampire in all it's artistic aspirations, you have to understand it is ultimately a moral and spiritual game, and one where actions like eating babies is unambiguously wrong.  Any player burdened with such a character should be revolted at that, and spend the game struggling to resist. I doubt such a play would be particularly enjoyable for the player, though. And given the extreme to which they take Amelina, I doubt any player could learn much about their own moral condition through the character.

The theme of "A Monster I Am Lest A Monster I Become" is a powerful one, when used properly.  When used improperly, it's teen age "edginess" with no meaning, no power, and can kill everyone's enjoyment.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Last Night

In this post, I want to look at The Last Night, the sample adventure which comes with the V5 Pre-Alpha rules set. There's actually quite a bit going on with this slim 56 page book, and as such, I want to  approach it in a couple of different ways. First, what is the adventure itself and how does it work on its own terms? Secondly, what does this tell us about the world and setting they have lined up for V5? Finally, what can we glean as far as the mood and themes of the game going forward. Needless to say, this post is full of spoilers. If you intend to play this adventure, please do not read any further.

The Adventure Itself

Since the adventure is freely available, I'm not going to spend a lot of time recapping the events here. What I will say is that the basic framework is pretty well setup. The players are a pre-existing coterie with a strong reason to be together and to engage in the adventure. The first significant scene (Siege of Golden Gate) is tense and exciting. The players then get a "breather" of sorts with its own issues and challenges--where to hunt, where to find safe haven, where to secure their friend, etc. Finally, the players are left with what should be a difficult choice given the chaos that is erupting in Berlin.

In each main section the adventure allows for players to make meaningful decisions, as well as accounting for potential failure at any point. While there is something like a "right" way to finish the module, the players have the freedom to go more or less in their own direction, and the adventure provides a decent amount of support for these alternate routes. At its most basic, its one of the better Vampire adventures I've read, and I hope it's a sign of how they'll approach adventure design going forward.

There are a few caveats, of course. The module is heavily tied to a LARP event. Now, normally I dislike the ideas of LARPs carrying over to the table top realm (or vice versa), as the two are different games, and I really dislike the idea of players in another game directly impacting events in my game. But, it's was for a convention, and assuming every player in the adventure had been part of the LARP, or at least heard about, is reasonable.

Secondly, the motivation for all the characters is tied to a Blood Bond with an Elder. This seems extremely heavy handed, but "heavy handed" is pretty much required for a convention adventure. If you're playing D&D, a wizard teleports you to room 1A, and if you're playing Vampire you all need to rescue the guy you're Bonded to.

Thirdly, there's certain parts with heavier than normal "rail-roading." For example, there's a powerful Anarch who (might) interrogate the coterie, and his Disciplines are high enough that you just can't lie to him. At all. This seems extreme, and I'm not sure how it works with the Rousing the Blood system the provided in the basic rules, but I'm willing to hand wave for such an adventure. I would despise these elements  if it was standard published adventure, or even if my local Storyteller came up with this, but I'll let it slide based on the needs of the convention format. I just hope it's not a design philosophy they'll stick with when the game is finally released.

Still, at it's core, this is well designed adventure that allows for a lot of player choice in how to resolve things, including the ending. I'm eager to give it a whirl.

The New World
They've released the basic mechanics, but the setting itself remains somewhat opaque for 5th Edition. We really only have this adventure and the mobile game We Eat Blood to go on, and neither of which was focused on explaining the world in any significant way to new players. Far as I can tell, here is what we know:

The Camarilla is a shadow of its former self. It is far more Balkanized and local than how it was presented in Revised or V20. While I certainly prefer the focus to be on individual cities and the vampires who dwell there, I find the idea of the Camarilla being an isolated "elite" within these communities to be a bit odd. I always liked the idea that the Camarilla operated on the assumption that every vampire was a member, regardless of what that vampire might say. Now, it seems to consist of a core of loyalists imposing their will on others. Perhaps this is not a significant change in reality, but it does seem off to me.

I'm reminded of a couple of instances I saw in my (admittedly brief) LARP career. Fairly often, a Giovanni or a Setite or some other "independent" would arrive in the city, and basically tell the Prince they weren't part of the Camarilla and they were going to do whatever the hell they wanted. And the Prince, acknowledging they weren't part of the Camarilla, would let them. This confused me, greatly, since in my table top games the Prince wouldn't have cared what the Giovanni thought--it was his city, his rules, and they obey those rules and traditions, or else. The "else" being lack of the Prince's protection, which means they were fair game for fraud, kidnapping, murder, really anything short of diablerie.

Still, this slight change seems to fit the LARP world, I suppose. And while I'm not excited by this change, I'm willing to hold off judgement until something more concrete is released.  Given how idiosyncratic each of my settings have been, I doubt this will be a major change going forward. We'll see.

Also, the rise of technology has left many vampires paranoid and unwilling to trust any message over the phone or computer. I've been running the game this way since the 90's, so this just makes sense to me. Even if the Second Inquisition wasn't in effect, murderous criminal conspiracies need to be careful in how they communicate.

The Sabbat is barely mentioned. There's a vague reference to a "Gehenna War," but that's it. So far, the crazy bastards seem to be of little standing in the new setting. Which is fine. While I've certainly run a few Chronicles that focused heaving on the Camarilla/Sabbat struggle, in general I like the idea of the Sabbat taking a back seat. Others will likely feel differently. I'm sure there's more going on with them than what little we've seen.

The Second Inquisition is a final piece of the puzzle, and the one that calls out for more information. Apparently, around 2006 a significant number of governments became aware of the vampiric threat, and are actively hunting them down, under the guise of anti-terrorism operations. It's unclear how they know about vampires, what they know exactly, and how widespread the information is. For example, how and why has the secret been kept from humanity as a whole? I suppose this is a bit of two-headed solution to the modern day. Humans do know about vampires, but they are helping to keep it secret. But, they are also eager hunters, so gross Masquerade violations can and will be met with trained and prepared legal authorities, who are ready to use lethal force.

One change does happen with this, though. In Last Night, you spend a significant amount of time fighting or running from the German part of the Second Inquisition. In most games I've played, mortal law enforcement was a minimal role in the narrative. They were there, surely, and drawing their attention was dangerous. In fact, smart vampires did their best to avoid law enforcement as much as possible. With the Second Inquisition in effect, it looks like law enforcement will play a much larger role in the game going forward. How long until we have vampires working with the Inquisition, to hunt down the truly monstrous ones? Or, vampires and other supernaturals forced into a "suicide squad" situation? Or just the cops becoming corrupt, and lording their extra-legal authority over the kindred?

Mood and Themes

This is probably where the most controversial aspects of the game start to emerge. Like We Eat Blood, The Last Night does not shy away from making the characters monsters, and doing and committing atrocious acts. Acts which are vile enough to sicken players, and perhaps turn them off the game entirely. While "playing the monster" is a key part of Vampire's appeal, how one presents it and what one does with it is the key to this working or not. I firmly believe that artists, and yes I consider roleplaying and video game writers to be artists, need to be free to explore the world through their works as they see fit.

Of course, the audience is equally free to reject this art.

Much like the mobile game, I'm probably more accepting of some of the choices in The Last Night, if only because of its nature.  As a convention module, and the "first look" at the new world, it needs to cram as much into is as possible. And that rarely is an opportunity for subtlety or nuance. Given the choices that it makes, particularly with pre-generated characters, it is a terrible tool for introducing new players to the game. But, for exploring these particular characters in this particular situation, it may or may not work.

On a broader level, however, the choices that White Wolf has made with both this adventure and We Eat Blood gives me pause. In both cases, certain tropes and themes become abundantly clear, and with  these I do have a problem. The characters seem to exclusively be jaded "scene kids"--artists of one sort or another who waste their lives in a drug and sex filled binge, with no conception or concern for tomorrow.  While I generally agree with the association of vampires to addicts, I have a bit of a problem with turning addicts into vampires. Or, with making all vampires such characters.

On of the things that always appealed to me about Vampire was, yes, the element of wish fulfillment. Or, more to be more acculturate, relatability. While I don't live in a fantasy world of magic and orcs or on the fringes of a distant Galactic Empire, I do live in the modern world, in the here and now. And therefore its very possible to understand and relate to a character in that world, someone like you or at least someone you understand, and then explore the world of darkness with that character. It doesn't mean that you always play someone just like you. Maybe your character is from a different country, different ethnic group, different religion, or gender, or sexuality, or economic class or...whatever. Anyone could become a vampire, and of any Clan, and therefore the game could reach an element of universality.

In 1st, they presented you with sample characters such as Malcolm, a burned out shell of a man driven by a perverted sense of vigilante justice. Travis, the artistic comedian turned vengeance driven rebel. Euclid, the homeless man just struggling to survive, while being torn between two fathers. Hell, you even have the story of Kyle, the photographer, and Shelzza, his ancient sire, weaving its way throughout the book. Each of these characters were different, and unique, and responded to the emotional, physical and social challenges of their change differently.

The characters as presented so far seem to be depressingly similar to each other--privileged drug addled nihilists who will suck and fuck anything presented to them. It's possible this is a coincidence, perhaps Zak Sabbath had his own idea for a vampire character, and the sample PC's are just similar due to the need of blood bonding them all to Andre. Neither necessary reflects where they are taking the mood of the game, nor examples of what kind of characters they'll encourage players to make.

Of course, it's possible that it's just me. I'm far from the core audience for the new edition of Vampire. My partying days are over, and even when they were in full swing rarely involved anything resembling the world so far presented. Maybe such characters as "dirty club kid," "urban culture blogger," "wealthy inheritor," or "techno-tourist" are eminently relatable to the majority of players. To me, they just seem more like empty cliche's than actual people.

And because they feel empty, the inherent horror potential of the characters falls flat. I love the idea of characters being monstrous, and fighting against those urges, and struggling to make sense of what has overtaken them. But when the character is empty, and they perform utterly reprehensible acts, the horror feels empty. Shocking for the sake of shock. Gross for the sake of grossness. Empty horror descends into mindless shlock.

I think this is what bothers me so far with the themes and mood of the game, as presented so far. The empty horror, the shock for shocks sake, the empty "sophisticated" nihilism--these are the "bad" guys. The ones who can't handle the world, and so turn in on themselves to numb the pain and avoid emotion or connection. Those who are without hope. The ones you want to avoid becoming.

See, hope is a difficult thing, but is the key to making horror work. The characters need something to strive for--peach and justice if they overthrow the Prince, serenity if they can reach Golconda, balance if they can keep their mortal friends and family in the dark just long enough, SOMETHING to strive for. Something they want, something they seek to protect or attain or accomplish. Some hope that keeps flickering in the night sky, some faint thing that promises that it will all be worth it. Some hope that might be snuffed out, but maybe one can reclaim it. Without hope, horror is nothing but blood and screams. With hope, it can be transcendent.

The characters so far aren't fighting against emotion and death...they are dead. And nothing matters.
I hope I'm wrong about this, and it's just a result of the small sample size of characters we've seen before. Or, perhaps I'm just not appreciating the characters for who they are. Perhaps there's more to them that will be revealed in the hands of a player.

But also, regardless of the nihilistic horror, they all seem like freaking morons.

You Are What You Eat

This is a supplementary post to my overview of the Pre-Alpha Rules for the 5th Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade.

One element of the game that's been talked about by various sources ia a rule generally referred to as "You are what you eat."  It seems like different mortal provide different minor bonuses to the vampire that feeds on them. Someone outgoing and gregarious might give you a use of Presence without needing to Rouse the Hunger, while a young and innocent mortal might give you a free use of "Blush of Life."

Now, I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, which is one of the reasons I'm about to run a play test for these rules. The problem is--this rule isn't described in the rule packet. I had heard about it, and it's a recurring mechanic in the adventure that comes with the rules. In fact, I was going through that adventure, The Last Night, when I realized I wasn't quite sure how this mechanic is supposed to work.

Here's the questions I have for it:


  1. Do the players know what bonuses they'll get BEFORE they feed? Do they know that Mortal A let's them heal one level for free, while Mortal B let's them activate Celerity for free?
  2. If they don't find out before, do they find out after? Like, does the vampire know after feeding from Mortal B that they a free use of Celerity?  Or, do they only find out when they attempt to use that discipline?
  3. How long does the bonus last? All night? Till they feed again? 
  4. Can you "stack" bonuses? Can I have a free Celerity and a free Blush of Life waiting to be used? What about multiple uses of the same bonus--like, 2 free Celerity uses?
  5. Do I have to kill the mortal to gain the bonus, or just drink from them? How much do I need to take to get the bonus? Can the entire coterie sip from the mortal and so gain the bonus?
  6. Does this rule allow one to access a Discipline you don't normally have. If I don't have Celerity, but I feed form a mortal who gives me that bonus, do I get to use it as a one time thing, or is it a waste? 
So, yeah, there's a lot I don't understand right now. I actually asked about it in one of my vampire groups. Fortunately, a few of the members had played in the Berlin Play Test, but even they had contradictory answers.  For one of them, the Storyteller kept it hidden until called upon. For another, it was out in the open. Which sounds like one of two things are going on with this. Either White Wolf hasn't yet formalized this rules in a form they're happy with, even for a pre-Alpha release, or they forgot to write the rules down and share them with the play-testers. Which is fine...this is a very, very rough draft version of the game.

But, for now, I think I'll play with these in the open, at least once the player feeds. In a real game, I think I would rather keep it hidden till called on, but for a play test I want this to be a public thing.


Monday, June 19, 2017

5th Edition Alpha Rules Released!

On June 15th, White Wolf released the "pre-alpha" rules set for the upcoming 5th Edition (download the rules and read the official blog post here). I've been quite interested to see which direction they intend to take the game, but aside from a few dribbles here and there, information has been hard to come by. I download the rules immediately, but have tried to stay out of the wider discussion until I've had a chance to get my own thoughts in order. Here then are those thoughts, with particular attention being paid to the changes from previous editions, what my initial thoughts are on them, and my reservations (if any) for how to implement this new rules. Of course, this is a Pre-Alpha rules set, which means a lot can change between now and Beta, and even more before the actual release. They are trying a few different things, which is exciting, but there no reason to get too excited or melancholic about these rules. It's possible that any or even all of these mechanics have already changed.

Still, though, I think it's worth going through. Consider this an unofficial addendum to my Let's Compare Editions! As the rules are free, though, and only about 48 pages, I encourage anyone interested to download them and check them out for yourself.

Basic Actions
Looks like they're keep the classic dice pool in it's basic form--Attribute + Skill, rolled against a base target of 6. Their are a few changes note, however.

1) They've changed the meaning of difficulty. No longer is it the number you need to roll on each die, but instead it's the number of successes you need to acquire. So, before a ST would say "roll Strength+Athletics, difficulty 6. You'll need 3 Successes." Now it looks like the nomenclature would be "roll Physical + Athletics, difficulty of 3."

This seems fine. I like that they kept the 50/50 odds, which I prefer over the CoD default of 8. I'm less happy about the setting everything to 6 always. One of the reasons I love Storyteller is how flexible it is in resolving issues, and part of that is the ability of the Storyteller to switch up the numbers based on the needs of situation at hand. Sometimes you want a Difficulty of 10, but only need 1 success.  Other times, you want a difficulty of 4, but need 3 successes. It's the flexibility I adore, and I bristle at anything that takes away that flexibility. But, as a basic system, it's fine. If a bit odd in the terminology.

2) They're dropped the individual attributes, and instead you have a broad rating. So instead of Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina, now one merely has a Physical Attribute. You are able to get a "specialty" in each attribute, which works out to +1 in one of the classic attributes--i.e., one could specialize in Strength, or Dexterity, or Stamina.

This seems...fine, all things considered. I never thought having 9 attributes was excessive, but this way might help negate the debates about which attribute should be used for what. Charisma and Manipulation were always the two that caused the most arguments in games I played in, and Appearance often ended up feeling like a waste for some players. Still, having just three seems somewhat boring. At least the specialization tool will allow some degree of variety.

3) Willpower is no longer spent prior to a roll for an automatic success, but instead spent after to re-roll as many as desired.

I actually like this. It's been on my "house rules for next Chronicle" for a while. I didn't "pull the trigger" as I thought this might be too powerful. But, one other change they made helps balance this--now, instead of Willpower being a 1-10 scale, it's a 1-5. Oh, and if you ever need to roll it, you roll current value. So, I'm a fan of this change.

4) Succeed at a Cost. So long as you roll at least SOME success, and are only one success short of the difficulty, you may succeed but something else happens to make things worse. The entire troupe is involved in this discussion, and it only works if everyone, including the Storyteller, is happy with the cost.

I'm torn on this change. On one hand, I like the vibe it puts off, and anything to increase the "chaos" of a game session is a good thing. On the other hand...I'm leery. I dislike any rule that has players directly involved in the "mechanical" part of the game. This isn't some "sacred Storyteller power" thing or the like. Instead, I'm happiest when my players forget about the rules and the mechanics and tropes of the game, and instead focus on playing. I want the Storyteller to worry about the mechanics, and the players to be able to play. There is one thing that makes this a tentative bonus, which is that everyone is involved in the discussion. In other games I've played with similar rules, the burden of being creative fell on the "active" player, and the result wasn't always great. Some could min/max there way out of any problem, others would be paralyzed by indecision, and others just annoyed to be taken out of the moment. These issues should be mitigated with the entire troupe involvement.

5) Take Half. For opposed rolls, the ST is encouraged to "take half." Assume the NPC rolls exactly "average" and move on. So, if they have an eight die pool, assume they get four success. This makes the game faster. and focused on the players action.

This is a subjective thing. I do it sometimes when running these days, but I wouldn't recommend it all the time. The chance and chaos of succeeding against the odds can be great for a game. But, for routine actions, it seems fine. For example, for a guard doing his rounds with no idea there's someone about? Sure, Take Half. For a guard carefully exploring the supply closet after hearing an odd noise, and in which the PC is hiding? Yeah, roll that out. Hell, roll that out in the open and let the dice fall where they may.

6) Other. On top of all that, certain things have been removed. 1's no longer cancel successes, and you can't Botch a roll (though the new Hunger mechanics have their own roll to play, see below). Also, nothing allows you to reroll 10's.

Character Traits
1) Attributes. We covered this above, but one thing to add. In the Design Notes Section, they say the following:
We reduced the number of Attributes from 9 to 3 and created these specializations because this allows players to customize and personalize their characters. Some Brujah, for example, will have Dexterity as their Physical specialization; others will choose Stamina. Not every Brujah is the same!
Maybe I've been running different games than the developers, but I've never run into this particular problem. Sure, certain attributes, such as Dexterity, are more valued than others. But I'm not sure how reducing the number of them allows for more customization. For the "standard spread," it's the same. Now you have a Physical of 3 with a Dexterity Specialization, instead of Str: 3, Dex 4, Sta 3. It only disallows the "odd spread" of, say, Str: 4, Dex 5, Sta 1. Sure, the "odd spread" was always, well, odd, but it fit for certain character concepts.

2) Skills. V5 changes the description of these from "Abilities" to "Skills." They also add two new ones, Physique for pure physical strength actions, and Technology for using modern tech. I guess "Computer" was too specific for this crazy modern age.

The terminology is fine--hell, pretty much everyone already called Abilities "Skills" anyway, and it brings Vampire in line with most other games. The new Skills seem to be fine. Bureaucracy is still gone, which is a shame, since I've always found it to be an incredibly useful skill, and one not easily covered by anything else.

Backgrounds and Merits
Briefly discussed, but are apparently still in "deep development." As such, I can't really comment on anything here. None of the sample characters even have any. 

Willpower
 Discussed above in Basic Rules.

Virtue & Vice
They don't go too deeply into these mechanics, but each character has a Virtue and a Vice. The Vice is your weakness, and surrendering to it gets you back one spent Willpower point.  Following your Virtue gets you back all spent Willpower, but only if great personal risk is involved.

This could be cool. It was an element of Requiem, and it seems a fitting replacement of the old Nature and Demeanor. Honestly, I think I was the only the Storyteller I knew that even tried to bring these aspects into the game, and most players would forget them anyways. There is a risk of subjectivity here, though. As others have pointed out, the Twin Towers were built by Pride, and destroyed by Faith. Not all virtues are always virtuous, after all...

But, beyond the broadest description, there really isn't much in the play test about this.

Conflict
1) Initiative. Initiative is now Mental (Wits)+Highest Combat Skill. It's also a rating, not a roll, so if you have a 3 Mental and a 3 Melee, you're Initiative is always 6. 

At my core, I dislike fixed initiative. I prefer more chaos and uncertainty in my conflicts. And, while I understand the logic of tying it to your combat skill, I also like the idea of someone who isn't a "combat monster" being able to go first and try something before the "bad asses" get into the action. It does, however, speed up combat. This could be good, or irrelevant. I tend to have a big action scene ever two or three sessions. Hell, most of my "action" scenes are more likely to be ambushes and murders, rather than straight up fights. But, if you run with a lot of battles, this could really save a lot of time.

2) Attacking. Melee and Unarmed attacks are now opposed rolls. Ranged attacks may only be dodged. Multiple opponents have a -1 penalty, but it's in sequence. First attack is normal, -1 for the second, -2 for the third, etc. Damage is based on the number of successes attained in the opposed roll, plus bonus for the weapons.

I am REALLY happy with this. Ever since I got back into 1st Edition, I've been using rules similar to these, and I've been having a blast with it. I LOVE the opposed roll take on combat. Though, I suppose you no long split your die pools for multiple actions, though that might be a misreading of the situation on my part.

3) Health and Damage. Health is no longer set to "7" levels, but is instead equal to your Physical Attribute + 5. There are two types of damage, Superficial and Aggravated. What is superficial or not differs between mortals and vampires. Bullets are superficial to vampires, but Aggravated to mortals. Once the Health track is filled, you suffer -2. Further damage converts Superficial to Aggravated. Once your track is full of Aggravated, you either go into a coma (mortal) or torpor (vampire). There's also a random Critical Injury Table. Final death is only possible with decapitation or total body destruction. 

There's no more soaking, but since Physical is tied to your health track, that might be fine. Other than that though, I dig the new damage system. I despised the Revised/V20 setup of  "bashing/lethal/aggravated" damage, and so I'm happy with the V5 Superficial/Aggravated split. I also like how one must deliberately kill another vampire--just clawing them up isn't enough anymore.

Question, though. Does a "Stamina" specialty increase your Health?

Blood, Hunger, and Compulsions
Blood Points are gone, replaced with a 0-5 "Hunger" rating. 0 means you are completely satiated, while 5 means you are ravenous. At it's core, this changes Blood from a "resource management" game to a "risk management" game. The more you use the blood, the more likely you are to lose yourself in your hunger.  You almost always have at least a 1 Hunger. Not only do you wake up this value, but the only way to get to 0 is to kill a mortal. The vast majority of vampires are almost always at least a little hungry, with all the danger that entails.

1) Rousing the Blood. Instead of "spending a Blood Point," one now "Rouses the Blood." The effects are the same--you "Rouse" when you wake up in the evening, use a Discipline,  increase an attribute, etc. 

2) Hunger Dice. To represent your urges, your Hunger rating translates to Hunger Dice. If your Hunger is at 2, your have 2 Hunger Dice. These are part of your dice pool for anything you attempt to do, but they replace normal dice, rather than add. So, if you have a Physical of 3 and Melee of 3 and a Hunger of two, you would roll your attack with 4 normal dice and 2 Hunger Dice, for the total of 6. The Hunger Dice function normally, unless you roll a 1. In that case, a Compulsion kicks in, ranging from whispers in your ear urging you to feed to immediately frenzying. 

If there is one element of V5 that fascinates me, it's the new Hunger mechanics. I like it...I really, really like it. I like it so much I fear that I'm misreading it, or that it will crash and burn in a play test. But for now, I think this is a wonderful improvement on the old system. And not just in the backhanded "hey, they're back to my beloved 1st Ed" of the Combat, but an honest improvement that I never even though to house rule.   

3) Composure.  Composure is a new Trait in V5, and seems to replace the old Virtues of Conscience, Self-Control, and Courage. You spend it like Willpower, and it's primary purposes seems to be resisting the compulsions brought on by your Hunger.

This is probably fine. I think I was the only person I knew who used the Virtues to really guide my roleplaying, and so combining them into one more immediately useful Trait probably makes sense.

4) Increasing Hunger. Just because you "Roused" the blood, doesn't necessarily mean your Hunger increases. Instead, keep track of how many times you "Roused." At the end of the Scene, roll a number of dice equal to that number, and the successes indicates how much your Hunger increases. 

This rule does solve the age old problem of blood expenditure and asking the Storyteller "wait, is this a new scene or the same scene." I do like the uncertainty of how Hungry you are versus how much you've Roused. Maybe you use your blood often, but it doesn't bother you tonight. Tomorrow, even a slight usage of the blood might make you desperate. The Beast isn't logical, and neither should the Hunger rules.

I hate the term "Rouse the Blood" though. Also, I might flip this. Since increasing your Hunger is a bad thing, shouldn't it be your failures increase your Hunger, with successes marking that you are in control? Or at least lucky?

edit: the above comment is incorrect. It's only dice that FAIL that increase your Hunger, not successes. So, the way I wanted it is the way that it is. 

5) Frenzy. They don't go into much for Frenzy, though it seems more or less like the older editions. You use Composure to resist, which makes spending it to resist your Hunger Compulsions a potential risk.

I like the use of Composure to both resist Frenzy and Hunger, but in different ways. Saving it to resist Frenzy means a greater risk of Hunger, and vice versa. 

Appendices.
Appendix 1 a list of potential Compulsions, which can be random. Also, there are sub-tables based on Clan--a hungry Brujah and a hungry Ventrue behave very differently.

I like this. I like how the clan flaws really kick in when you are desperate. And I love random tables. 

Appendix 2 Critical Injury chart.

I have nothing to say about this, except "YAY RANDOM CHART!" 

Appendix 3 Disciplines. Only a few disciplines are described in these rules. Most function the same as we are used to, more or less. With only a few notable changes. 

1) All disciplines and all levels of disciplines require you to Rouse the Blood. Even Dominate 1 or the like. No longer can the Ventrue casually Dominate their way through the night. 

2) The Physical Disciplines are, more or less, "nerfed." For Example, Celerity 1 allows you to double your Initiative and add your Celerity Rating to Physical (Dexterity) rolls. Celerity 2 allows you to Dodge against Ranged attacks with no cover without giving up your next action. It's only at Celerity 3 that you gain a single extra action. 

I actually rather like these changes. They seem to keep the spirit of the Discipline, without allowing them too much power. Though, I've never had a problem with the old rules getting in the way. Sure, the Brujah with a Potence of 3 and a Celerity of 3 can tear through a mortal gang. But, the Ventrue with Dominate 3 and Presence 3 can do so much worse to that gang...

Appendix 4 Skills. Brief overview of the various skills. Not much to add, as they aren't even given the classic "1: Student" through "5: Dated reference to a Celebrity we really dig, or have at least heard of." 

Appendix 5 Generation. A quick and dirty system for Generation. Long story short, your Generation translates into a "Blood Potency" rating. This rating is subtracted from your Rouses to test for Hunger increases (so those of lower Generation can use the blood more freely and get Hungry less often), is added to the Compulsion table (so when they DO get hungry, it's far more intense than a higher generation vampire), and subtracted from the amount of Hunger lost when feeding (so lower generation vampires need to feed more often and from "better" sources.)

I'm leery of this, if only because "the upside to a lower Generation is able to do more crazy things, and the downside is you do more crazy things" might appeal to exactly the wrong sort of player. Otherwise, it seems fine. 

So, those are my thoughts on the Pre-Alpha rules. There's a lot here I like, some I'm unsure about, and a few I dislike. Though, most of that is terminology, an easy house rule, or something I'm sure they'll change soon. I'm actually surprised how much I like the changes, at least as presented here. A lot will undoubtedly change between now and final release, but I still encourage everyone to download these rules and give them a whirl.

As for me, reading the rules are one thing, but playing is a different thing all together. I have my own play test coming up soon, and so there will be a follow up post coming shortly. Also, the Play Test Packet included an adventure, which I'll be running. That will also be discussed in a different post (edit: here!). 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Let's Play Alien Hunger


What follows is an experiment in Solo Gaming, or at least an experiment for myself. I have run a few games in the past, but I wanted to try out a pre-published module. To see how it would be different from a normal game, how it would be the same, and what I can learn from it. 

The end result is more of a "fan fiction" take on the concept, rather than a standard recap. Unlike a typical Solo Game, in which you play the character and allow a Emulator to take the roll of the Game Master, I decided to try a "PC Emulator."  The characters and their reactions were determined by random rolls, and the result was, for me at least, a fascinating story with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. 

The module I choose was one of my all-time favorites, Alien Hunger.   The system used was Vampire: The Masquerade (1st Edition). The Emulator I choose was Mythic. All characters not defined by the module were created using the Universal NPC Emulator. Names were from Everyone, Everywhere. I hope you enjoy!

Night 1: A Fiery Awakening Stolen from their mundane lives, three average college students find themselves suddenly changed into something Other.

On their first night alone, the college students struggle to understand just what it is they've become. 

Night 2: Daron  Daron seeks out help from the one person he thinks he can trust.
Night 2: Trent Frustrated and beaten down as a mortal, Trent tries to embrace the monster he had become.
Night 2: Maya Terrified at what has happened, Maya flees from her old life

Night 2: Never Alone The characters reunite, forced to work together if they want to have any hope of survival.

NIght 3: The World Around Them The characters begin to figure out how to survive as the monsters they've become, while other forces begin to coalescence around them.  

Night 4: The Heist The characters make a desperate gamble to find blood without killing.

Night 4: Reaching Out New plans form, and they contact those they hope can aid them.

Night 5: Retaliation They begin their investigations and the other Kindred begin their hunt.

Night 6: Stealing from Thieves The coterie strike out to get the resources they need.

Night 6: Things Fall Apart Everything that can go wrong, does.

Night 7: In the Land of Dead Hunters track the coterie down.

Night 8: Plans And Alliances Fresh allies offer some hope for the coterie.

Night 9: Reprieve A quiet night reveals how far they've fallen.

Night 10: Confrontations & Answers As tensions threaten to tear the coterie apart, they find the answers they have long sought.

Night 11: To Live and Die Again With answers in hand, they must make their final decisions. 


Want to know more about Sole Gaming? Checkout out here or here. Or the Lone Wolf Google+ Community. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Concluding Thoughts on Alien Hunger

My "PC Emulator" take on Alien Hunger has come to a close, and it's been an interesting ride. It didn't go quite the way I thought it would, but I think the game and story went better for that.

First off, the core of the game was to experiment with the idea of using the Mythic Emulator to replicate PC's in a module. And I have to say it worked extremely well. Now, Alien Hunger is something of a "sandbox" module, which is a bit different. Sure, there are plots and threads and the like, but how the players approach and resolve each one is up to them, and can vary greatly troupe to troupe. In fact, in my play through, they pretty much skipped two of the three plotlines. And one really awesome sub-plot.

If you've read along, you'll notice some 'red herrings' dropped into the recaps--during their second night,  I mention the character of Tony, but he never shows up again. His role in the module is to be something of a mentor figure, to explain the basics of being a vampire and the existence of the others in Denver. And then to disappear and be killed. On night five, I spent a bit of time on the "court" of Denver. The conflict between Edward and the PC's is a major element in the module, and I was sure if was going to come up sooner or later.

But neither did come back up. I really wanted Tony to show up. I had an entire speech written out for him, where he gives the coterie shit for being damn idiots and, I thought, a pretty poetic explanation of the inherent paradox of vampiric existence--A Monster I Am, Lest A Monster I Become.  It was haunting, and beautiful, and just what the characters needed to hear at that point. But, I didn't do it. It just didn't make sense from the point of view of the story that was unfolding to just jam this random NPC in and highjack the narrative.

Similarly, the other vampires of Denver just...never showed up. I kept trying to game the system, to keep the numbers in their favor, but the results never worked out. Now, I could have forced the issue. Just had Tony show up because, you know, I'm the Storyteller and the dice work for me, not the other way around. Same thing with the various hunters and enforcers for Edward. And that's where the inherent hybrid nature of this game became clear to me. I was running a module, but filtering it through the Mythic GM Emulator, so I wasn't the only one running it--Mythic was as well. And I wasn't the only one playing it--the Emulator was on both. In a way, it felt less like playing a game and simply recapping a story someone else was telling me.

And honestly, I think it was for the best. By keeping Tony and the vampires of Denver "off screen," the story remained hyper focused on the trials and reactions of Maya, Trent, and Daron. And, to a lesser extent, Suzanne and Zoe. When I run modules and games for "real," I sometimes force the tale to go the way I had envisioned it. But sometimes it's best to lay off a bit, and let the characters and their desires drive the game.

Anyway, it was different experience, but one I think I want to keep working on. I probably won't be posting updates for future games, though if I get another bizarre bug to novelize them, who knows?

Oh, so, the reason why I "novelize" the recap--it's a bit of an odd thing. Most of the solo gamers don't bother with it. Instead they focus on the mechanics, and let the story form "between the lines" so to speak. I think that style works for the majority of Solo games, since most are based on D&D or one of it's derivatives. Pretty much everyone "gets" D&D, and so you don't need to go into detail.

Vampire is...different. For one thing, it's not nearly as popular as it once was, so I can't assume a reader will understand what's happening if I just posted the mechanics. Also, the module I was running is obscure even among Vampire fans, and I really can't assume that anyone is even remotely familiar with it. So, yeah, hence why I "novelize" my recaps.

That, and I sort of play that way even on my non-posted games. Sure, I don't get quite as detailed as I did here. But, pieces of dialog, quick descriptions, notes about emotional states--all these things matter, whether one is playing Vampire or D&D or what have you.

Random additional thoughts:

The other plot they missed is the Investigation. There's an awesome Detective that's on their trail and uncovering all their lies and mistakes. He's just great. But, since they went on the run so fast, he never got a chance to talk with the characters. He makes a brief cameo on Night Two interviewing Daron's neighbor

That subplot I mentioned? Yeah, Prestor kept samples in a Bank, and the players get to break in and steal it. A bank job! You have no idea how excited I was to see what they would come up with and how they would, probably, fuck everything up. But, Zoe botched her roll,  so they never even knew about it.

The PC Emulator did a really good job making the PC's act like PC's. They forgot about Suzanne on Night 1. They would have a plan at the end of one night/session then just drop it and aggressively pursue another. Sometimes they were all about talking and scheming, and the next scene they just want to fight people. Which is what ends up happening in every game I've run. And, to be honest, played in.

BUT, it's not what happens in Solo games. Ultimately, because in a Solo game, the GM and PC are one. Which means if I (wearing the PC hat) think a plan is reasonable and fair then, by definition, I (wearing the GM hat) will also think the plan is reasonable and fair. By adding in a randomizer, that's not always the case. For example, the coterie would have been much better off staying at Daron's and talking with the cops earlier. Or, calling up Klondike at the end and talking it through with him. Or a number of other cases where they just screwed up because they didn't know what the hell they were doing.

Honestly, though, I think it ended up being a better story.

Night 11 -- To Live and Die Again

Night 11
To Live and Die Again
Tuesday, November 17th, 1992

They drive as far and as long as they can, heading north away from Denver, hoping to avoid all their problems and pursuers. As the stars began to fade, they seek shelter at a random roadside motel, just an anonymous dump where no one would look for them. The vampires take one room, sealing themselves away in the bathroom, while Zoe and Suzanne get their own. While the vampires were forced into their own paralyzed slumber, the mortals slept fitfully, and not for long. 

Zoe gets up first, and begins feverishly going through the notes and logs that have been recovered. The answer to the mystery is in front of her, if only she can unravel it. But neither Prestor nor Liverman had any intention of writing for publication, it seems. Their notes are a mess, most barely legible and key elements of their research left out, clearly assuming anyone who read these would know what they had done. She goes through most of her own notebook, just trying to make some sense of what they were up to.

Suzanne spends her day slower, more still. Calmer. She sleeps longer, lost in dreams and nightmares, until forced awake by the sound of Zoe's scribbling and quiet curses. She is the one to head out to get them food and drinks, and herself fresh packs of Camels. Away from the demands of the group, she finally allows herself to think, to plan. She was the one who asked about what happened with Klondike, how they had escaped, if they had killed him. None of them had wanted to tell her, but she had her ways to convince them.

And what she heard both intrigues and infuriates her. So, it was possible for someone to be turned into a vampire, even without the mad doctors experiments. And there were more out there, an entire world of unearthly gods. And she had come so close. She had brushed up against that power, but had been rejected. Could that be undone? And if so, why had none of her "friends" attempted to? Daron and she had been close once, very close. But now, he seems to want nothing to do with her. Well, she can't really blame him. She hadn't understood what they were back then. It wasn't her fault, not really. And Maya, well, no one seemed to know or care if Maya's condition was contagious. And Trent was...Trent. Nice enough, at times, she supposed. And he always had a crush on her. Most boys did, to some extent. Though she couldn't imagine spending her life with someone like him. Would she have too?

Throughout the day, while Zoe works, Suzanne keeps herself busy with her thoughts, bouncing from scheming to self-pitying rage.  The two speak little to each other. Understanding, perhaps, that whatever happened next was not entirely up to them.

When night comes the coterie finds Zoe resting on the bed, attempting to nurse a headache. The mattress she lays on remains covered in notes, ranging from detailed logbooks to loose scraps of paper. A collection of vials stored in a rack stand on the nightstand. Suzanne lounges next to the open window, chain smoking another cigarette, contemplating the night sky.  An empty pizza box and cans of soda fill the trash.

The vampires stand around Zoe, looking at her expectantly. She glances up, startled at their presence. She’s flustered, tired and exhausted and barely getting by on caffeine and Excedrin. She rubs her eyes, and looks back at them. “I hate to say this, but I’m just not sure.

“Whatever these guys were working on is way above my head.  I mean, it looks like they followed all the necessary precautions and tests, but they were doing it the most bizarre way I’ve ever read about. This is more fringe science than anything real. And I don’t know even where they would have gotten some of these chemicals, they’re all so tightly restricted that they require a Federal permit. How did these guys pull this off in their freaking garage?”

“Zoe,” Trent says, interrupting her. “Is it a cure? Can it change us back?”

She sighs, and walks away from them, pacing around the small room. “I just…I don’t know ok? They keep referring to a substance called ‘Alpha,’ but never explain what it is. But it’s what they’re testing, what it can and can’t do, how it affects living organisms. I mean, I assume that what it is, it’s what makes you guys, well, you. Why you can be clinically dead and still walk and talk and everything else. See these vials here?”

She picks up the vial rack, ticking off its components. She points at the first set, each containing a red fluid, which all the vampires recognize as blood. “All right, so, see these. There’s a whole set. The first is labeled 'Serum #1/Georges.' I have no idea who or what ‘Georges’ is. The second is 'Serum #2/Neutral'—ok, great. Neutral what? Again, no idea. I think it’s a synthesized variation of the Georges, but without this ‘Alpha’ chemical. Then, we have these—Serum #3, which appears to be another variation on the Georges serum. But see this—three letters written by hand: 'M/S/V?' What does that mean? Well, here’s a hint, Serum #4-6 are all from some different source. I think he was trying to see which one would work, and how. Not the best lab procedure, to be honest. But, #4 is marked with another M, #5 is marked with T, and #6 is marked D. So, yeah, I think Mavis, Suzanne and Vince all got dosed with 3.”

“Why?” Suzanne asks, suddenly very interested in the conversation.

“I don’t know why this guy was doing anything. But, it looks like you were all supposed to be 'turned', not just you three. I guess her had plenty of access to Serum 1, and so he wanted to use that, but he also used 4-6 as a backup. I guess Serum 3 just…just didn’t work. I’ll need to do a lot more digging and testing to figure out why.”

“So, I was supposed to be turned, too,” Suzanne says contemplatively, as she blows smoke out the window.

“Fine,” says Trent. “So, serums 1 through 6 are what made us, what about the rest?"

"Well, more accurately, 4 through 6.” Zoe corrects.

“Fine, whatever. What about the clear ones? Or the powder?”

“Well, the clear ones are 'Anti-Body 1' and 'Anti-Body 2.' The powder is just marked residue. Oh, and check this out.“ She rustles through the scattered papers, until she finds the one she needs.

“Anti-Body #1 should, in all cases, destroy substance Alpha, on contact. Analysis of Residue #1, however, indicates that the resulting residue is extremely toxic.

"Anti-Body #2 has a similar effect, neutralizing any concentration of Alpha with which it comes in contact. It does not form a toxic residue. The residue it forms is an interesting biological substance which will cause an allergic reaction in human beings, and in fact, in most mammals. In high enough concentrations, it could well be fatal."

“So, yeah, long story short, I think the anti-bodies should destroy whatever Alpha is.”

“Well, just 2 though, right? I mean, that’s the non-toxic one. But only if you’re low on blood,” Trent trails off, thinking.

“Low on blood?” Zoe asks, confused. “I mean, wait, can you guys get ‘low’ on blood? How does that work? But, yeah, if you had ‘less’ blood, but then you would die, regardless of how allergic it is. Everyone needs blood, right?”

Maya walks forward, and takes the vial marked Anti-Body #2 from the rack, gazing at it thoughtfully.

They all watch her, waiting. She turns, questions on her lips which fade before she can speak them. She sits on the bed, slumped over, starting at the vial. “How can I know? Will it even work? Will it kill me?”

Turning to the group, she asks them “What should we do?”

“This is your call,” Trent assures her. “Whatever you choose, I’ll back you. 100%.”

“What are you going to choose?”

“Me? No, I’m not. I don't want to take the risk. Besides, I was always crap at being alive. Now? Now I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. I guess I should wrap it up in some sort of poetry, about experiencing a new world, and the Promise of Eternity and all. But that’s bullshit. I like what I’ve become, and I don’t want to go back to what I was.”

“Great,” Daron says. “Really glad we went through all that to get a bunch of poisons that will probably just kill us anyway.” He grabs the keys from the table and turns, looking at the room. He’s supposed to grab something, a suitcase or a backpack or anything. But then he remembers that he really has nothing left, and so, with a final look at his friends, he heads out into the night.

“Wait,” Trent tries to say to him. “Shit. Maya, like I said, it’s your life, it’s your call. Whatever you want to do, ok?” And he heads outside, trying to catch up with Daron. Suzanne flicks her butt out the window then follows them out.

The door closes, and Maya and Zoe are left alone in the room. Zoe sits across from Maya, and reaches out, holding her hand. Maya instinctively pulls her hand back, alarmed. It’s the first non-violent touch since she was changed. “There might be another option,” Zoe says softly. “We have these compounds, and we have you. I might...it might be possible for me to replicate their research. Perhaps even enhance it.

“I can’t promise anything. I would need, fuck, like my doctorate and a shit ton more knowledge to start. And money. It wouldn’t be cheap, and I don’t know how I would get grants to event start paying for it. But, it’s possible. If you can wait.”

“10 years?” Maya asks fearfully.

“Just to get started. I’m not the best person for this, but I want to help you. Besides, this might just revolutionize medicine, and ‘Nobel Laureate’ has a pretty good ring to it.”

Maya has been seeking this since that first night. It’s been the one thing keeping her focused and disciplined. Now that she has it, what does she do? Does Maya truly want to try the cure? Very Likely, Exceptional Yes. She was lying to herself, or deluding herself. She wants to be human again. Does she take it now? 50/50 No. She is still Maya, still focused on doing what is necessary. And if all she had wanted was to commit suicide, there were easier ways to accomplish that. She reaches out to Zoe, taking her hand, and relieved that her friend doesn’t flinch from her grasp. “Money, you said? I might have a few ideas of what we can do about that.”

Trent follows Daron outside, calling to him just as he was about to get into Maya’s car. “Yo, Daron! You’re just going to take her car, man?”

Daron stops and turns around. “Well, fuck it, right? Figure I’ve paid for it.”

“Don’t go. Please.” Trent steps forward, hoping to meet Daron’s eyes. “Look, I’m sorry about…about fucking everything up. I didn’t know what I was doing. None of us did. And, yeah, I admit, I was wrong about things, but we can still figure this out. Together.”

“Trent,” Daron sighs. “First off, it’s not about you. Yeah, you’re a self-destructive asshole, but that’s not what bothers me. You want to go off and find more vampires and get involved in more bullshit? Fine. You do that. Me? I need to rebuild my life. I mean, you didn’t have a life, no wonder you’re so happy to be dead. But I had friends, and family. I know that sounds mean and shit, and I know you were alone, and I’m sorry as hell about your parents. But mine are still alive, and right now they’re crying over their son who died in a drunken car crash and they don’t know why, and I don’t know why. And I don’t know what I’m going to do.  But I need to figure it out.”

“I get it. You may think I don’t, but I do. If you ever get in trouble, or need something…”

“Yeah. You too. I’ll, uh, send Zoe a postcard or something when I get settled.”

They say their farewells, and Daron drives off, heading east, leaving Denver forever behind him.

“You’re going to miss him, aren’t you?” Trent turns around to see Suzanne, bathed in the yellow glow of the light post she was leaning against.

“Not very manly of me, huh? But, yeah, I am. I guess...I guess I thought, after all we had been through, that we would stick together, you know? Three Musketeers and all that. That we were, you know, family. Guess I was wrong.”

She walks over to him, laying her hand on his shoulder, looking deeply in his eyes. “You’re not alone Trent,” she whispers.

“Daron’s gone. Maya, well, who knows what Maya is going to do. And I have a bunch of pissed off vamps in Denver looking for me. Yeah, I think I’m pretty alone.”

“I mean,” she whispers even softer. “You don’t have to be alone.” She leans in, pressing her lips against his cold neck. “No one should be alone.”

And in the cold dark night, Suzanne gasped her final breath. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Night 10 -- Confrontations & Answers

Night 10
Confrontations & Answers
Monday, November 16th, 1992
Day

On Monday morning, Zoe and Suzanne skip classes to focus on the tasks ahead of them. Rolling Mythic, I do get an Interrupt--NPC positive (The Coterie) Ruin Environment.  Nothing inspires me about this result, so I disregard it.

The investigation takes most of the day, as they call various banks and government agencies, pretending again to be interns with the San Jose Mercury News. They are both working on this, but I have Zoe make the rolls, as she has the highest pools of either of them. Besides, Suzanne is increasingly distracted, obsessed with the dark world she has been exposed to and being "left behind." 

First, they call around to banks and mortgage companies, trying to find out where Prestor came from, his previous addresses, and where his money originated. This is an Intelligence + Finance roll, base difficulty of 6. They “spend” three of Trent’s earlier successes, and reduce it to three. Neither has the Finance skill, so they roll Zoe’s Intelligence of 4--1,8,2,1. Botch.  Hrm, maybe they should have made friends with Business Majors.

Tracking down Prestor’s mysterious visitor is a tad easier, mainly dealing with public information sources, such as the DMV, phone numbers, and the like. They roll Intelligence + Bureaucracy with a base difficulty of 5, also reduced to 3 thanks to Trent’s roll. 5 dice 7,7,7,10,1. 4 Successes. They get his name, Roger Liverman, his phone number, and his home address.

I am curious about their botch though, and so I roll a random event on Mythic: Move Toward Thread (Kindred of Denver) Oppress Advice. While the local Kindred were content to wash their hands of Suzanne, her questions about Prestor quickly catch their attention. One of Duke’s mortal servants, a ghoul named Steven, is alerted by their contacts at the bank that someone is making odd inquiries. He looks into it, and is particularly curious when he finds a college student behind the questions. He tracks down Zoe, and when he sees her connection with Suzanne, he knows they have a problem. He leaves a message for his dominator, and keeps them in his sight.  Around midnight, one of Duke’s followers will approach her and find out what the hell she thinks she’s doing.

Night

They wake in their hotel room, Trent and Maya more relaxed and happier than they’ve been in a while, while Daron is moody and quiet. Leaving him be, Trent and Maya walk a few blocks from the hotel and call Zoe from a gas station pay phone. They’re annoyed that she couldn’t find out anything about Prestor, but mollified on the information with Liverman.  Trent is willing to wait a few more days, but Maya insists they head back. They agree to meet Zoe and Suzanne at the theater, since they kept the call to vague generalities. They know just enough about wiretaps to be leery of saying too much on the phone. When they get back to the hotel, Daron surprises them with being more than willing to return to Denver. Better the hellhole you know, he figures.

On their way back, they stop briefly to run some errands. They again hunt among the cattle, Trent with glee, Daron and Maya more perfunctorily. They also stop at a Walmart for some better clothes, and some basic camping gear. Trent figures that if they need to return to their basement haven, they’ll want some improvements—a battery lantern, tarps, clotheslines, etc. He also gets a pair of survival knives and a baseball bat. One can’t be too careful, after all. Maya and Daron just want to get this over with, though Daron does note sourly that their cash is starting to get low again. Trent and Maya shrug it off. He figures there’s always more money out there for the taking, while she is clinging to the belief that soon it won’t be an issue, anyway.

They carefully drive onto campus; aware of how dangerous it is if they are seen by anyone.  Trent scans the area, while Daron gripes that they should have met them somewhere outside of town, his miserable mood only worsening as they got closer. Trent does notice something off (Perception + Alertness (Auspex double Perception in 1st), dif 10—10, 3, 8, 3, 7, 10, 10, 9, for 3 Successes), and sees Steven’s car in a parking lot. He’s not near the entrance to the path that leads to the theater, but he has just a good enough view that it worries Trent.

What does he do? Trick Death. He directs Daron to take a roundabout way, and has Maya get out to keep an eye on their new friend.

They drive around for a few minutes, then double back. They park in front of the entrance, and walk casually towards the theater. Does Steven follow? Yes. He was worried about what Suzanne knew, but her association with these “rebels” propels him to action. He also knows better than to get too close to a vampire, of any sort. He pulls out a long rang, directional microphone, and plans to just get in range enough to record their conversation. As he moves towards the woods, he is brought short by the sound of a gun being cocked next to his head. (Maya spends a blood point on Dex, and rolls Dexterity + Stealth against a difficulty of 6 (the ghoul is good, but distracted), and gets 1,7,9,8,8,4,--3 successes).  She grabs his tape recorder and smashes it on the ground. “Walk” she says, and leads him towards the isolated theater.

Zoe and Suzanne were nervous meeting the coterie, but begin to freak out when Maya walks up with a strange man held at gunpoint.  Daron and Trent are no longer shocked by such things. They have him sit, and begin asking him questions. Who are you? Why were you following Zoe and Suzanne? Who do you work for?  But Steven is loyal, and refuses to answer. He’s been in the game just long enough to know that his situation is hopeless. He’ll talk eventually, he knows, but he’s going to make the bastards work for it.

Daron moodiness switches from sullenness to anger. He gets in the mans face, ordering him to talk, to tell them what they want. Or else. Trent pulls him away, saying he has an idea, something he wants to try out. Something he had been working on in Colorado Springs (he increased his Presence to 2, giving him an “entrancement” ability). Trent rolls Appearance + Empathy, at a difficulty of 6, with 3 dice. 5,1,1. Botch.  Steven spits in Trent’s eye, laughing at him.

Daron throws his hands up in disgust, and Maya pistol-whips the captive, the sudden violence drawing all attention to her. She levels the gun, first at Steve’s eye and tells him to start talking. When he glares back she moves the gun to his foot and stares at him with her horrific visage. “We have all night, and you know that. No one will hear your screams, and you know that. We don’t care about blood or severed limbs, you know that. You are going to talk, and you know that.

Because the more you bleed, the hungrier we get. And you know that.”

Manipulation + Intimidate, difficulty 6. and gets 6,10,4,1 for 1 Success. He grumbles, but is also aware of the inherent hopelessness of his situation. He hadn’t checked in before coming here, and the odds of his people getting to him before he is eaten are mighty slim. What does he say? Inform Wounds. Fuck it, he tells them the basics. He knows they’re vampires, and he’s not impressed. He works for creatures much scarier than them.  There’s a whole crew that run Denver, and they are on the hunt for all of them—the vampires and now the mortals, too. They're rebels and illegals, or just know too much. The coterie can either turn themselves in for whatever judgement the Prince decides, or get killed. Surrender or death are their only options.

They knew there was at least one other vampire, but hearing about an entire group? And one that wants them dead? Or, perhaps, worse? Trent is curious, he wants to meet them, find out what he can, an idea which also intrigues Suzanne. Maya has no interest in delving any deeper into this horror than she must. Zoe has no idea what any of this means for her, and demands to know how she was found. And Daron? Daron is officially sick of this shit. 

How do the players respond? Desert Randomness.

Everyone in the group begins talking at once, arguing this point or that point, asking questions and giving no one time to answer. There’s a cacophony of voices, all trying to speak over the other. And their captive smiles smugly at the chaos in front him.

All except Daron. He remains quiet at first, but as the voices grow louder, he walks up to Maya, holding his hand out for the gun, which she hesitatingly gives him. He then turns, and shoots their captive in the head. (Cold Blooded Murder—Conscience roll 4,5,3. His Humanity begins to slip away.) Everyone stops, and turns to him. Even the vampires are shocked by his callous act.

“I just wanted my life back. I just wanted to be normal again. And I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. So, I wanted to leave.” He turns and stares at Trent. “I said ‘we can just go. Get in my BMW, go anywhere in the country. I have enough in my trust fund that we can get by wherever we choose.’ But no. You said we had to stay. You said we needed to find a way to undue this. Fine. And since then I’ve lost my car, my trust fund, my fucking LIFE. My parents think I’m dead, my friends think I’m dead. And, ok, maybe we are dead. But we are not staying here, do you understand. No more of your plans and schemes, no more ‘finding out more.’ We are getting the fuck out of here. And then, we’re done. You go your way, I go mine. I don’t know what the hell you want, Trent, but I just want to get someplace where no one knows me, where I can walk in public without being terrified some asshole from 101 might notice me.Somewhere I can just be.”

He turns to Maya, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you got fucked so hard by all this. And I do care about you, so we’re going to talk to this Liverman guy, we’ll see what he knows. What he can do for us. If he can fix this, great. We’ll, I don’t know, claim amnesia or some shit and try to rebuild our lives. If not, well, I am sorry. But I’m out.”

He looks to the group. “Does anyone have a problem with that? No? Ok, let’s go talk to Liverman. Maya, Zoe, Suzanne, you ride with me. Trent, you drive the other car.” And then he sullenly stomps off.

“What about him?” Suzanne asks, fascinated by the corpse left in front of them. And more fascinated at the calmness the vampires express. Her heart is racing, and just being near such death is enough to make her sick. But they don't seem fazed. To Suzanne, the vampires don't appear scared of death, or dying, of anyone ever hurting them. They seem invulnerable. Her question draws Maya and Trent's attention, and they casually look at each other and shrug. They grab the body, put some rocks in his pockets, and toss him into the not yet frozen lake.

The casual violence is almost too much for Zoe, and she's ready to quit, to get out. She wants no part of murder, no matter who the victim might be. Only Suzanne seems to notice, or care, and she convinces her to stay with it. They need to find out how all this was done, and what they can do about it, and only Zoe can provide them answers, Suzanne assures her.

She does not clarify who she means by "they," however.

As they walk up the path, Trent whispers to Maya “Daron’s losing it.”

“Maybe. But he’s not wrong—all the shit we’ve done. That you know we’re going to have to do. How can you even want to meet people…things, like us?”

“Fine,” he says peevishly. “But we’re still doing it wrong. How many things have gone to shit because we didn’t think them through?”

As they get to the cars, Trent turns to Daron. “Look, I know your pissed at me, but think! If we’re going to talk to this guy, we shouldn’t just pull up ready for a fight. We should call him first, feel him out. Make sure he wants to talk to us.”

“And what makes you think he would ever want to talk to us,” Daron demands, as the others get into Suzanne’s car, avoiding the argument between the two.

“Cause this guy’s a scientist, man. And we’re…we shouldn’t exist. He was doing some fucked up weird science, and we’re the result. And the guy he was working with got killed. We call him, say, I don’t know, that we’re fellow researchers—other people Prestor was working with.”

“Whatever,” Daron says, grudgingly. “But I’ll call. When we’re on the way. You take Maya’s car; we can’t leave any more crap laying around.” He gets in the car, and leaves Trent to follow.

Along the way, Daron stops at a pay phone and calls Liverman. The man is initially wary on the phone, but when Daron mentions Prestor’s name, he becomes extremely friendly, and is very receptive to Daron’s offer to meet that night. It is too easy, and that makes Daron nervous. He makes sure to have one of the knives the purchased on his hip when they show up.

Trent is waiting for them when the pull up in front of Liverman’s house.

With the scene change, I roll against Mythic. Chaos Factor is now at a 9, and I get an Altered Scene, Remote Event, Judge Disruption. Duke and his crew are aware that Steve hasn’t checked in, and begin looking for him. It’s only a matter of time before the find his abandoned car, and the blood stains aren’t too far away.

Daron orders Suzanne and Zoe to stay with the car, not wanting to put their lives at any more risk than he needs to. Suzanne protests, arguing that they need her and Zoe with them, to help figure things out. But, Daron is hearing none of it. The coterie walks up to the house, Trent ready for a fight, Maya ready for answers, and Daron ready for this to be over with.

An older man opens the door as they approach, eager to speak with them. His friendliness disarms them a bit, and they enter his house. They walk into the living room, and the place is a mess, looking like a tornado had struck it. They spin as they hear the front door slam shut, and Liverman stares at them. “So, which one of you broke into my house? Or was it all of you, eh?”

Daron sighs. “Seriously? Dude, we JUST found out about you like this night. We didn’t even know you existed before now. Trust me, we’ve never been here before. If we had, why would have come back? Sorry, buddy, but we’re not your crooks.”  (Charisma + Leadership, 1,7,6,8,7 -- 3 Successes)

Liverman laughs. “Of course,” he says, bidding them to sit. “One can’t be too careful, you know.”

They speak about Prestor, though Liverman begins with more questions than they have.  He asks them about test results and “Alpha compounds” and other terms that make no sense to them. Maybe we should have brought Zoe, Daron thinks. Instead, he tries to steer the conversation. He doesn’t want to tell this stranger more than they need to, but he needs information. What was he doing with Prestor, and what happened with the break in? This is tricky, since Liverman believes they know more than he does (well, he’s right, but not the way he thinks he is.) Daron rolls Manipulation + Leadership against a difficulty of 8: 9,8,8,10,10. 5 Successes, which is a complete success. Liverman doesn’t even notice how the conversation has changed, with none of his questions being answered. Instead, he tells them about the cutting edge research he and Prestor were working. Some odd drug compound, that could change everything about how they treat blood borne pathogens. He goes on for a while about this, the coterie lost in the details of cellular analyses, but one thing does strike them. He mentions a “dirty little guy” who had wanted to purchase their research, and was willing to pay a lot for it, too. Well, of course, Liverman claims he doesn’t care about the money (he does, he just assumes that patent money would be far greater than anything this man could ever have paid), and refused. Trent presses him on this, and Liverman reveals that, yes, he does have his number and a name, Robert Klondike.

The coterie puts two and two together while Liverman rambles on. Who else would have broken in and stolen his research notes? As soon as they see an opening, they make their excuses, and promise to get in touch with him again, and to bring their “notes” next time. They need to find Klondike, a fact even Daron is forced to admit.

What do they do? Kill Peace.

Trent thinks they should just call this guy, since that worked out pretty well.  Maya points out the obvious—if they’re right, he’s already a criminal, and probably won’t be too happy about strangers asking questions.. She recommends they break in and steal the stolen notes and samples back from him. There’s a bit of back and forth, but Trent is down with some action, and Daron doesn't care, so long as they get the answers.

They try the obvious first, and call information, getting an address for Robert Klondike. As Daron exits the phone booth, Trent is waiting for him. “Hey man, before you start, let me just say I get it. I’m frustrated as hell to. But, maybe we can let them go, you know? They don’t need to be a part of this.”

Daron stops, refuses to look at him. “In case you haven’t noticed, they are part of this.”

“Yeah, ok, but maybe they don’t need to be part of this, you know? Why don’t we just drop them off at like Denny’s or someplace? They can eat some Moons over My Hammy, drink coffee, complain about euro-centrism in contemporary American films. You know, what we used to do before Armed Robbery became are go to way to spend our nights.”

Daron doesn’t laugh, but agrees. They drop the girls off with Suzanne’s car, and drive to the address, a small house in a decaying blue-collar suburb of Denver.  It’s a rambling ranch style home, and the yard is an uncared-for mess, full of weeds and broken glass. The house looks like a fortress, with iron bars on every window, and multiple locks clearly visible of the front door. They watch the house for a while, checking to see if there is any movement, any sign of anyone being awake or even alive in there. Seeing nothing, they decide to move forward.

“How the hell are we going to break into that?” Trent asks.

Daron says “I thought you were the expert at this stuff.”

“Yeah, I'm good, but not that good. Ah, fuck it! Ok, let me check it out, see what I can find.”

Daron and Maya keep a lookout while Trent approaches the house, trying to find any vulnerable point. Perception + Security at a difficulty of 6, 7,3,1,5,6,10,8,9,2 – 4 Success. The bars on a window in the garage aren't as tight as they should be, and Trent thinks that Maya should be able to tear them off. We waves the other two over, and she quickly puts the crowbar to work, prying the bars loose.

They crawl through the garage, and then easily enter the house itself. It's a depressing shambles. The kitchen is bare and spartan, containing only a handful of utensils or plates. The living room is even worse, with only a beaten old tv and a Lazy Boy in one corner. The other contains a writing desk and a wooden chair. A drab, filthy carpet in front of the fireplace complete the look of barren desperation.

The do a quick once over through the house, avoiding what they figure are the bedrooms. They find little in the house, though what they do find alarms them. Under the desk and the lazy boy, they find wooden stakes. A flare gun. A machete. Whoever this Klondike is, he knows about them. And he's ready.

Without a word passing between them, the start to slowly make their way down the hall, towards what they assume would be the Master Bedroom. Whatever Klondike knows, or thinks he knows, it's too dangerous to wait. They ready themselves, Daron taking out the gun, Trent drawing his knife, with Maya wielding the machete they had found. Once ready, the open the door, as quietly as possible.

A shot rings out, deafeningly loud.  Daron and Trent leap back, as Maya crumbles to the floor, her intestines spilling out of her. They curse, and Daron fires blindly into the room. A small metallic object is thrown at their feet, and they look upon it with alarm. "Grenade? What the shit?!?"

The grenade explodes, filling the hallway with a think, blinding smoke, foiling even their enhanced senses. More shots ring out, wounding the vampires and forcing them to cower behind the thin drywalls. Trent shouts at Daron to cover him, and rushes into the bedroom, knife ready to strike, only to be slammed in the head with a stock of a shotgun. Seeing his chance, Daron fires, but the weak pistol hardly seems to faze the man. Or whatever he is. Klondike fires a round into Trent, exploding his chest, then turns with alarming speed and hits Daron.

Daron falls, struggling to sit up, to reload the gun. As the smoke clears, he sees the man walking up to Trent, with a stake in one hand and a mallet in another. Daron cries out, and empties the clip at the man, who continues with his cruel task, driving another one into Maya. "Fuck you," Daron weakly gasps, drawing his knife, daring the man to approach him.

"Now, now," the man says, crouching down a few feet from him, resting the shotgun casually over this knees. "There's no need for that. You must understand, childe, I have no desire to harm you. Nor do I wish to harm your friends over there. The truth is you have something I need. And I have something you need, yes? So tell me, are you willing to make a deal?"

"A deal? What the hell are you talking about? What kind of deal," Daron asks, looking around wildly, hoping to make sense of things, or find someway out.

"You want what I stole from Prestor and his lackey, Liverman, yes? Oh, I have it. I have everything you might want. Though are you really sure you want it? Is it so valuable to you? I imagine it must be, or you wouldn't risk coming here. Particularly not so late. As for what I want, well, it should be obvious. I want to be you. I want you to turn me into a vampire."

"What the hell are you talking about? Why would you want to be a vampire?"

"Why would I want eternal life? Eternal freedom? Ha! For too long I have served your kind. Hmm, but I suppose it's really more their kind, isn't it? No more, though. I will no longer be a slave, instead I will be a master. You have nothing to fear from me, of course. No, as soon as I complete my transformation, I will leave this town and never look back. I doubt we will ever cross paths again, and I'm pretty sure I'm far better equipped to survive this than you, my friend.

"I can call you friend, can't I? I don't want this to be anymore unpleasant that it needs to be. No need for me to threaten you, or your other friends. None of that nonsense, just two reasonable men making a bargain that leaves both in a better position than before. Isn't that the way the world is supposed to work?"

"I don't...I don't know how."

“What?!" Klondike says with alarm. "Ah, of course, you're the results of Prestor's little experiments, aren't you?” He explains to Daron how it would be done. That he must drain Klondike of his blood to the point of his death, and then feed him some of his own blood. He won’t need much, he assures, just enough to make the change happen.

"What about my friends?"

"Hmm? Oh, they'll be fine. A little sore perhaps, shotguns hurt like the dickens. But no worse for wear."

"They're not dead?"

"Hmm? No, of course not. You really don't know how any of this works, do you? Well, if we had more time, perhaps...but we don't. No, as soon as the stakes are removed, they'll be fine again. Sore, perhaps, but fine."

"Ok, let them go, give me the material from Prestor and Liverman, and I'll do it."

"See, I wish I could believe you. But you do understand what a delicate position I'm putting myself into.  No, your friends remain where they are, as does the material. In addition, I am not a young man, as you can see. I have a heart condition. A little machine, a pace maker, keeps everything ticking as it should. And that pace maker is tied to a bomb in the basement of the house. Once it stops, I have five minutes to disarm it, or the whole place explodes. You, I'm certain, will be able to escape just fine. But your friends? The material? Poof."

"Ok, fine. Keep the material hidden. But let my friends go. I want to know for a fact that they'll be ok."

Klondike thinks this over. "Very well," he sighs, and drags Maya and Trent into the living room. Daron limps in after them, and sees his friends being chained to the walls, with gags pressed into their mouths.

"Is that really necessary?"

"One can't be too careful, young one. A truth you would be wise to learn." Once secure, he removes the stakes from Maya and Trent, and two begin to thrash and twist, straining at their bonds. Daron rushes over to them, and hearing him calms them. He explains the situation, and their predicament. Trent shrugs his shoulders at the idea of turning Klondike, while Maya furiously shakes her head "no." Daron tells her he's sorry, but he doesn't see any other way.

Klondike stands in the middle of the room, and repeats his instructions as Daron approaches him, fangs extending. It has been a long time since he tasted human blood, and its heady and intoxicating rush overwhelms him. He soon loses himself in what had started as an unpleasant chore, clinging to the man and sharing his warmth and his heart. A heart that beat strong, and true, until it turned desperate and rushed and then quiet, and faint, as all life was taken from the man.

Daron lets the corpse slide to the ground. Trent and Maya lean forward as far as they can, eager to see what would happen next. None of them had any memory of their own creation, and they watched with an alarming intensity. 

Daron then takes out the knife, and slashes his own wrist. The intoxicating scent of vampiric vitae comes over the room, and he brings the wrist to the mans mouth. At first, nothing happens. The blood spills out into the empty shell. Then, he begins to convulse, shaking and throwing himself with an unearthly vigor, until he lies still again, seeming devoid of life. Daron looks to the others, wondering if there had been a mistake, but he is then pulled down as Klondike grabs his arm in a deathless vice, drinking more and more from Daron, taking his life to replace that which had been taken from him.

Maya tears the chains from the wall, and rushes forward, pulling the two apart. Daron is weak, and collapses to the ground,  pressing hard on his arm, trying to stop the bleeding. Klondike stands, laughing and cackling, raving on and on about his long years of waiting, of denial, and finally, finally, his own victory. Trent, spitting the gag from his mouth, yells at him, trying to get through his madness. But the new vampire is in a daze of spinning and laughing and ranting. Maya finally clocks him, hard. “The bomb! Turn off the bomb.”

Klondike looks at her, seemingly confused at her presence, if not her very existence. It takes him a few moments to blink back his giddiness. “Oh,” he says, laughing. “Right, the bomb.” Giggling to himself, he wanders to the back of the house. Maya tears Trent's chains free, and the two of them rush to check on Daron, who assures them that while he’s weak and hungry,  he will be fine. After a few moments, Klondike returns to the room, caring a duffel bag and the shotgun. Seeing the weapon, the coterie begin seeking cover, but Klondike waves away their concerns.

“Oh, no need for that. We’re friends! Hell, more than friends, we’re family! Speaking of which, which Clan am I? Ventrue, Toreador? Wait…not Tremere, am I. That would be…unfortunate.”  Seeing their blank faces, Klondike sighs to himself. “And of course he choose you lot. Well, no matter, I’ll figure it out on my own. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I am leaving. I’ve dreamed of this moment for, well, longer than any of you have been alive, that’s for sure. And I have no desire to live out eternity in Denver, of all places. Nor do I want anyone to know where I am, until I’m ready to reveal my presence.”

He walks to the kitchen, heading to the garage. “What you want, it’s in the fireplace, just a little bit up. As for everything else, “ he looks around at the remains of his pathetic excuse for a life. “Burn it, for all I care.” 

Trent runs over to the fireplace, reaching and searching for, well, anything. Maya calls out “Wait a goddamn second! You’re not going anywhere until…”

“Maya,” Trent says. “We have it.” 

Vampire 5th Edition, After Action Report

I was finally able to run a game with the 5th Edition play-test rules , using the provided scenario The Last Night .  I've posted previo...