Monday, October 16, 2017

Creating a Random Vampire

Now that we have the basics for creating a random vampire in place, let's see what we can come up with.

Oh, quick note, I did some light touch ups on the random vampire post--cleaned up the tables, and added an "age of death" option.

Step 1 Background
Gender 8 Female
Age of Death 6 Early to Mid Thirties
Cultural Background 8 Natural Born American
Ethnic Background 1 Caucasian/White

Step 2 Concept
Nature 21 Traditionalist
Demeanor 7 Conformist
Concept 6 Investigator
Clan 1 Brujah

Midnight: The Men of Mjarn - Trader (Traitor) Saga

The Trader (Traitor) Saga

The game begins with Deirik and Eirik’s family’s trading stop in the city of White Cliff. They have already dropped off the goods they are giving and are headed to the location where the goods they are receiving are hidden.

Deirik and Eirik, and the rest of their father’s crew go to the barn with their goods to retrieve, only to find the crates and barrels are empty and they’re being approached by an orcish force. During the ensuing battle, several of the men die, including their father, Yakob. While their Uncle, Torvald the Elder, offers to take the lead, Deirik is the rightful leader according to the rules of succession and takes on the mantle of captain. With no goods to retrieve, and no knowledge of the people Yakob worked with or deals in place, the brothers take it one step at a time and go to the city of White Cliff to talk to their cousin, Torvald the Younger, whom they find was abducted by Legate Voldash too long ago for them to follow. Rhald, aka “Rowdy” and his wife, Sorna, their trade points of contact in White Cliff, reach out to tell them what they know of Torvald, but can’t help them there. Rowdy can help them get more boro meat and skins, to keep the trade route going, by telling them about some nearby Shadow controlled farms from whom they can steal. The brothers successfully take out the orcish guards, steal some boros, and return home with the goods and news of what happened.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Random Vampire

Random character creation is pretty antithetical to Vampire, in all honesty. The game values deep and nuanced characters far more than disposable volume, and as such each character, both PC's and NPC's, are meant to be built with care and consideration. Also, the mechanical aspect of character creation is so damn quick that, once a character is conceived, it takes only a few minutes for even a new player to fill out the sheet.

Given that, why would I bother with random creation at all? Well, for a few reasons actually. The first is the search for inspiration. Sometimes you want to make a character and don't yet know who this character will be. In the past, I've used some different tools to help me figure out who the character is, using tools like Central Casting, the "random Preludes" of the Masquerade Players Kit, and the Universal NPC Emulator. All have their virtues, but I wanted to try something different--instead of coming up with a character and their background first, and then worrying about the mechanics, I wanted to focus on the mechanics first, and see what they tell me about the character. Secondly, with the start of my new Ravenous game, I feel the need to come up with a host of different characters for the PC's to interact with and oppose on a regular basis, though they may only feature in a session or two. As such, having a tool to make unique NPC's is certainly helpful.

Finally, I find rolling on random tables and seeing if I can make sense of the results freaking fun.

Scarlet Vampire

Inspired by some recent games I've been playing, I'm going to start up a new Actual Play for Vampire: The Masquerade. As I've already posted a few of these, I want to do something slightly different for this play-through. Well, two things. The first, is a something I like to call "Scarlet Vampire," which I detail below. The second is a "random vampire generator," which will require its own post (here).

Scarlet Vampire, is, essentially a variation on the Solo Urban Adventures rules from +Kevin Crawford's excellent OSR game Scarlet Heroes. If you don't have this already, get it. It's a fantastic game on its own, and a wonderful resource for anyone interested in either Solo or OSR style gaming. Pretty much everything Crawford puts out is top notch, and he's one of the best indie developers working right now.

What I really enjoy about the rules he created is their ability to allow for failure. Failure is an underappreciated element of gaming. Unlike other storytelling mediums, RPG's can accommodate failure and keep the story going. While a book or movie or play might give the illusion of failure, or at least the risk of it, the actual results remain firmly tied to the storytellers whims. The hero will save the hostage or not based on the "needs" of the story, while an RPG can make that risk real. And without the chance of failure, the game becomes, to me, somewhat hollow. Reward is only meaningful if the risk was meaningful, after all.

So, how does this system work, exactly? Well, I don't want to reprint the entirety of Crawford's work. The current rules I'm using are only a slight variation, after all, and can generously be described as an "Alpha" version. As such, I encourage you to pick up Scarlet Heroes if you have any interest. But, I will be providing a brief overview.

There are two key parts of this system for Solo games. The first, is that there is an Opponent character. Like the PC, the Opponent is trying to accomplish something. Something the PC would rather they didn't. As such, the two are in competition--the Opponent seeks to fullfil their desires, while the PC seeks to thrwat them. This competition is rated by Victory Points. Each is seeking to gain 10 Victory Points first. If the Opponent does, then their plan succeeds, despite the PC's best efforts. If the PC does, then they are given an opportunity to confront and hopefully defeat the Opponent.

Midnight: The Men of Mjarn - Characters

In such an oppressive world, something has to set you apart from the masses or you would never even consider going up against the Shadow and his forces. In Midnight, that “something” is a Heroic Path, a piece of your lineage that links you to something powerful or magical. You can be Giantblooded or Charismatic, Quickened or Dragonblooded.

The characters that the players created for the Men of Mjarn campaign sagas are these:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The World of Midnight

The best way to describe the Midnight Setting is to say “imagine a world in which Sauron won.”

Izrador, The Shadow, the god of evil, was cast out of the heavens by the other gods and fell to the planet Aryth’s continent of Eredane. As he fell, he cast a veil between the mortal realm and that of the heavens such that the gods who betrayed him cannot pierce it. There he began to wage war on the good races of the land:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ravenous: The Coyote

The Coyote
Spring, 1991

Kali, Masaru, and Chester drove their beat up Gremlin to the outskirts of Escondido, California. They had talked about this for months now--the shared desire to strike out at the monsters that dominated their world, to gain revenge on those who had destroyed them, to force the world to make some sort of sense. What had once been fantasy was about to become reality. And now that it was here, that it was happening, all their big talk and assured confidence faded away. 

They had come all this way to kill a man none of them had ever met.

It was Masaru who gave them the information. Half-remembered from years ago, when he was still breathing. His fellow hunters had talked about a probably vampire in this small town, someone involved with human trafficking. Rumor had it that he imported a girls from Mexico and others countries further south, then sold them off down the line. But not all of them were sold. Some went "missing." His hunter crew had been pretty certain that he was keeping these for his "private stock." They had intended to follow up on it, after they had finished up the raid on that one nest. But, that last raid had ended in the death of the entire crew, many at Masaru's blood-frenzied hands. 

It was time to make things right.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ravenous House Rules: Out of Clan Disciplines

The final significant House Rule I'll be implementing for Ravenous is how Out of Clan Disciplines are handled.

In Vampire, each Clan of vampires has three "Clan Disciplines"--for example, Brujah have Potence, Celerity, and Presence. There's naturally a desire for players (and, often, characters) to learn more than just their inherent abilities.  Over time, I've become less forgiving of easy access to Out of Clan Disciplines. This is for three interrelated reasons. First, characters rapidly become very similar, taking away from the distinctiveness of each Clan. If everyone has Potence AND Celerity AND Fortitude, then what really makes any of them different? Secondly, most systems/guidelines place a different cost in terms of effort and risk in learning different Disciplines. "Physical" ones are pretty easy, "Common" ones (Dominate, Obfuscate, Presence, etc.) are about average, with only the "Unique" ones requiring special access or significant training. Which of course means it's easier for a Tzimisce to learn a Brujah's Disciplines then the opposite. Which encourages players to play Tzimisce and Gangrel over Brujah and Toreadors. And since everyone can easily learn Potence and Celerity, it reduces the Brujah from the masters of battle whom all should fear, to weaklings who don't have anything to offer anyone else. Thirdly, all this spending of XP on Out of Clan Disciplines means that it's rare to see players really attain the higher levels of any Discipline, and those are just neat.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ravenous House Rules: Experience

Whenever I think I about "experience points," they always strike me as being odd things.  Thanks to video games, they're pretty well baked into the popular concept of Role-Playing Games, even though they're not really required for them. I mean, you have games like Amber or original Traveler that have no Experience. Or games like Fate (where players can adjust skills between sessions) or Call of Cthulhu (where skills are improved as a result of checks and rolls), both of which all for character progression or change without the need for "experience points" per se.

But, when it comes to player direct games, XP can be an incredible tool. It allows the players to know what the goals are, to work independently toward those goals, and to make key story decisions on their own term, without requiring the Game Master to define and pace the story. The classic example, of course, is Dungeons & Dragons. In the original game, players gained XP for each Gold Piece they retrieved from the dungeon. And, in fact, they could easily gain far more Experience from treasure than they could ever hope to attain through killing monsters. Because of this, the emphasis was often placed on minimizing combat, and figure out clever ways to get the treasure without bloodshed. And if bloodshed was inevitable, the players would fight as cunningly and as brutally as they could imagine.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ravenous House Rules: Downtime

As part of my new Ravenous game, I'm implementing a few House Rules. Some are ideas I've been mulling over for Vampire for a while (the Downtime system) while others are more custom for this particular Chronicle (Experience and Out of Clan Disciplines). 

The first is the Downtime rules. Two things have always bothered me a bit with Vampire. The first is the tendency of the game to fall into a "night by night" kind of situation, where each session flows into the next and adventure piles on adventure and after a year of unlife, the characters have the stats of Elders and the whole city is a smoking ruin behind them. The second (related) is the speed in which characters develop--they start off barely able to load a gun (Firearms 1) and after a few months of play, they're the greatest shooters in the world (Firearms 5). 

Which is absurd...each dot represents an exponential increase in ability. Science of 1 is a High School student--and a particularly nerdy one at that. Science Club, Science Fair, AP classes, etc. Science 2 is someone with a BS in Physics, someone who has spent years studying the subject. 3? That's a Masters Degree. 4? Doctorate, and a recognized expert in the field (NOTE: Someone who went to some fourth-tier school or barely understood what was going on (but Daddy's money talks louder than grades) might have a lower actual Ability, regardless of Degree) And 5? Man, that's "has defining Theories named after you"/Nobel Prize Contender level. 

Obviously, Vampire is a game, and as such is designed to reflect more "movie reality" than "real reality"--a Physicist with Science 4 can still dissect a corpse and whip up a batch of meth if needed. But, still.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


I've started up a new Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle. I decided to do something a bit different, at least for me, and to run it as a Sabbat game, as well as running for the first time via Roll20. I've run a few games over Roll20 before, and played quite a bit more, but never a full Vampire one.

It has been quite a while since I last ran Sabbat. Generally, I'm not a huge fan of this group--it's an odd combination of both too complicated (juggling different Paths) and too simplistic. The Pack focus leaves the players emotionally and socially isolated from the wider world, which limits the kinds of stories I can tell, and the hyper-violence rapidly gets boring for me. I had thought I had found a way to square this circle, but expanding the Pack beyond the immediate circle of players, and really focusing on its role in the wider world. I had though of a chronicle similar to the TV series Sons of Anarchy, where the Pack is the main character, and conflicts within the Pack are the source of most of the drama. One could easily see this as any great family (or "Family") drama or soap opera, where one may disagree with or even hate fellow Pack members, but one is inherently attached to these people. As such, betrayals and lies could be even more painful, as they come from within.

Creating a Random Vampire

Now that we have the basics for creating a random vampire in place, let's see what we can come up with. Oh, quick note, I did some li...