The first story is always a bit tricky when starting a new game, but particularly so for games like Vampire. Since so much of the game is dependent on the characters, it is almost impossible to come up with “generic” stories that will fit any coterie, and yet when creating the first story you are working with a blank slate. Since my players haven’t created any characters yet, I have no convenient hooks (like missing sires or desires to discover a cure for their unfortunate condition) to rely upon. And yet, I need to come up with something, as I don't want to spend the entire first session just creating characters, nor do I want to rely on just “winging” it and run the risk that the game might fall flat.
First off, let’s review my outline, and what I’m hoping to accomplish at this stage in the game development process:
4 First Story
4.1 Develop a basic first story to kick the game off
4.2 Keep it flexible enough to handle a variety of PC types, as the PC’s are not yet created
4.3 Story Outline
4.3.4 Plot Summary
4.3.5 Key NPC’s—some from the general City pool and some created for the Story
4.3.6 Rewards for completing the story
4.3.7 Conditions for Success and Failure
4.3.8 Rough idea for consequences based on players actions
Most of this advice is taken from the Vampire Storytellers Handbook. I’m not going to follow all of it, but I will be using it to frame my first story. Since I don’t have any PC’s yet, I want to review what I do know of my players, and try to think what they need and would want from the story.
I have three players, one of whom has played some Vampire before, but not a lot. Another has played Werewolf years ago, and the third has never played any White Wolf game before. All of them are relatively new or casual players. As such, I cannot assume that they know anything about the system, from skill checks to disciplines. They won’t know how blood works (increasing physical stats or healing), nor will they understand how Virtues, Humanity, or Willpower works.
In other games they have played, they have been more of a “kill first, ask questions later” type of players, so I can assume they will follow the same approach in this game. Now, as a veteran Vampire player/storyteller, I can tell you that these tactics are a great way to get your character killed by someone higher up on the food chain. But in the case of my Charleston, this viewpoint works well—the players are supposed to be young anarchs whom the Elders inherently hate and fear. If the players can piss off these Elders because of actions they actually DID, all the better. It makes the game stronger to have someone hating them because “you killed my grandchilde” rather than “ you're young, and therefore I hate you.”
Of course, given that, I cannot assume they will all be playing Brujah or anything. They're just as likely to pick Tremere or Ventrue or something, and just play them like hyper-violent vigilantes.
Finally, they’re not looking for a serious dramatic game where somber people meditate on the cost of ones humanity—they’re going to want to run around and kill things and blow things up. We’ll probably be sitting around and joking, maybe having a few drinks, and just looking to have fun.
Given that, I want a pretty bare bones Story, something that the players will get pretty easily and be able to follow. I’m not a huge fan of “training” adventures in RPG’s, so I don’t want to include a walkthrough of key rules of the game, but I will be pausing the game to explain how things work if/when it comes up.
So, given that, I’m going to go with a “bug hunt” style adventure. There’s someone out there messing things up for the coterie. They lack the clout or the information to rely on some authority to handle this, and so they are forced to deal with it on their own. They’ll have to run around a good chunk of the local area, meeting various people, dealing with a couple of threats, before finally confronting the big nasty and taking him out. It’ll be a bit heavy on the physical side of things, but I think it’ll be a good way to get them used to the mechanics and their characters.
Next up, I start working on the story proper.