Monday, January 18, 2016

Retrospective: Alien Hunger

Alien Hunger is, without a doubt, my favorite published adventure for Vampire: The Masquerade, and the one I have run more than any other. It's also one of the oldest, published back in 1991, and one of the first supplements ever published for the game. Which might be why I like it so; there's a sense of chaos and experimentation in many of the earlier supplements that is invigorating.

It's a different kind of Vampire adventure than most of what White Wolf published (even contemporaries like Ashes to Ashes). It's more immediate, local, and personal, at least compared to the more dramatic epics.  The players aren't dealing with a massive change to Kindred history, or even alterations to a city. Instead, the adventure is about them, how the change into vampires affects them, and destroys them, and ultimately what they decide to do with these changes. As such, it's only really appropriate for a new Chronicle, and I find the less experience with both roleplaying in general and Vampire in particular, the better the experience will be for the players. Though I'll go more into what I mean by that later.

I can't really talk about Alien Hunger without getting too deep into the "plot" of the adventure, such as it is. So, here's spoilers for a 25 year old adventure. At the beginning, the players either create mortal characters, or choose one of the pre-generated ones. The only restriction is that they all must live in Denver, know each other in some fashion, and have a general liking to each other. They're friends and acquaintances, not necessarily friends. For example, all the pre-gens are connected via community theater, so they're all members of the same social group. One night, a stranger kidnaps each of the characters. Hours later they awaken, changed, and locked in the basement of a burning building with a few mortals.
'Cause when you think Vampire, you think DENVER! Actually, I wish
they had done more with some of the less "iconic" cities.
Their "sire" (for lack of a better term) is an Elder who has been researching a cure for vampirism, and believes he has finally found it.  Now ready for more advanced trials, and has grabbed the characters to test his theory. The plan was to turn them (through a special technique), make sure they were vampires, and then administer the cure. In theory, no one should have remembered anything, but local Kindred intervened, slew the Elder and set fire to his haven.

As ever, it's more complicated than that, but that's the basics.

The players have an obvious and immediate goal, to get the hell out of the building. It's tricky, but there are ways. The bigger issue is how do they handle the mortals? Do they frenzy and slay them? Do they reveal what they are? Will they even figure it out before it's too late?

Once out, they need to deal with the changes they've gone through. In fact, once they're out, the adventure opens up. The players can, more or less, do whatever the hell they want. There are certain plot threads, of course, that they'll need to deal with in some form sooner or later. First, understanding what they are, what they can and can't do, and what, if any, precautions they need to take. This is exacerbated by a local detective who just knows there's something fishy about the characters. Secondly, the Kindred of Denver. While they had no idea what their creator was up to that night, they have little patience for these strange outsiders and there seeming deliberate actions that threaten their community. After all, the players are going to screw up, somehow and in someway, which the locals will view as a threat. Finally, there's the question of what happened to them, why, and if there's anyway to undue it.

I think it is this structure that makes me so love this adventure. The various threads do follow each each logically--the cop and dealing with changes would come first. After all, the Kindred of Denver don't even know the players exist at first. Then, once they begin hunting the coterie, survival becomes the focus. Only once both of these are settled can the players comfortably deal with the greater questions. But, it doesn't HAVE to be this way. In one play through, the players never really dealt with the police, instead going "off the grid" and being on the run the entire game. In another, the war with the other Kindred continued even after the had resolved the question of their origin. Each time I've run it, the game has gone some in its own unusual fashion.

This is the kind of structure I use for my own games; create a situation and let the players respond to it as they see fit. There are no "scenes" or chapters, the story unfolds as it will based on the characters actions. It's a style that I wish more Vampire adventures adhered to. For some groups, the struggle with the law and their own changes will predominate. Others will resolve this quickly but will go to war with the other vampires. Its entirely up to them, which makes for an incredible experience.

Of course, there are some flaws in Alien Hunger. First off, it's pitched as "Jump Start" for Vampire. But, the very nature of their embrace makes for an odd and unusual setup for a Chronicle. Since they are created as lab experiments, the ties of sire and Clan, and the benefits and consequences of these relationships are entirely lacking not only for this story, but for any that come after. While the coterie will have a strong reason to be together, at least initially, it also makes it damn difficult to replace characters or add new players to the game later.

It also doesn't work well for veterans, of either Vampire or gaming in general. This is not because they know the "rules"--understanding disciplines and blood use, or knowing about how the city has a "Prince" isn't the issue. The problem is that if you think like a "gamer" you are going to have a VERY tough time with this adventure. Veterans often think "well, we can just kill this cop," whereas new players often never even think that, understanding that killing cops is a bad thing. Particularly if you're trying to not draw attention to yourself. Likewise, veterans often assume that any enemy vampire presented in the game most be "level appropriate" and will often choose to stand and fight when they should run. Alien Hunger isn't intended to be a blood bath, but approaching it like a game can have disastrous consequences.

Finally, while Alien Hunger provides an excellent setup for the coterie to form initially, it is terrible at keeping them together, making it as best a crap shoot as a basis for an ongoing Chronicle. In fact, I've never seen a coterie survive the story. Not the characters--again, it's not a blood bath. But the coterie has fallen apart every time I've run this story. This might be a negative to some Storytellers, but to me it's an amazing positive.

By the end of the story, the characters have been through hell. Death, damnation, murder, violence, and paranoia have been their companions for days or weeks, and they are irrevocably changed from who and what they were. As they find the final clues and uncover the lab work of their creator, they are presented with a number of choices. Risk the cure? Destroy it? Turn it over to other vampires? Ignore it? More critically, there are broader questions of what they've become, how they feel about being vampires, what they want going forward, and what they have done to survive up to this point.

Every time, it's these questions that tear the group apart. Morality, ethics, Humanity, acceptance or rejection of others of their kind and what they have become. Questions for which there are no "right" answers, but merely each individual characters point of view. I've seen betrayals and lies and hour long debates about things that really matter tear the coterie apart. Not the group, not the players, but the characters.

It's an amazing thing to witness. I generally dislike "inter-party conflict," that tiresome trope of players backstabbing others because "it's what my character would do" over some slight, real or imagined, or some insane theory, or just because of "lolz." But this kind of conflict? Arguing about philosophy and morality and right and wrong, and the group falling apart over those who embrace being vampires and the power they have over those who are terrified and reject their existence? The kind of conflict where after the game, everyone has had a great time, and feel more alive and engaged than they did before the game started? The kind of conflict that makes the story powerful and memorable, and might even leave a player with a new perspective on things in the real world? Yeah, this is why I love Vampire and why, when it works, there is no other game like it.

As such, I feel that Alien Hunger works best as a "one-shot." Approach it as a closed story, a brief diversion from your other games that might last a session or three (I generally find it lasts 2-4 sessions, but this is up to each group). If everyone has fun, then continue the game (if the coterie survives) or start a more conventional Vampire game as a follow up.

So, if you have a group of people who have never tried roleplaying before, and they're into vampires and horror and all that junk that we love, run Alien Hunger. It can be an amazing experience for everyone. If you're players are really into Vampire and/or want to do something epic and "badass," well, there are other adventures that will better suit their needs. At the very least, any Storyteller can learn a thing or two by reading it, just to get a different perspective on what Vampire can do.

Alien Hunger by Jeff Berry. Published by White Wolf Publishing, Inc. 1991. Available for purchase at DriveThruRPG

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Night at the Opera part 2 -- Solo Vampire -- 4th Session

In the last part, Andrei cut a deal with Capone and was looking for a way to end the incipient gang war between the Italian Mafia and the Bloods for ultimate control over the Russian Mob. Andrei was busy tracking down information on his rival, Kasmir, when a hitman struck at one of his allies. After some quick thinking and luck (and a GM who didn't understand how combat works), Andrei was able to dispatch the hitman. But now, the threat of an all out street war is closer than ever...

The crowd in the club, of course, freaks the hell out. Multiple sub machine gun bursts, and two superpowered (well, slightly...Potence 1) bad asses tossing each other around. Chaos erupts, but fortunately the police in Chicago are notoriously slow to respond. Andrei attempts to walk out casually, and has to make a Charisma + Stealth roll to get out with the crowd. He succeeds. Sergei got out on his own, to his bodyguard/driver waiting out back. Andrei makes sure that he'll be taken to a doctor, and then gets the hell out of the area.

The Chaos Factor increases to 7--Andrei won the fight, but it was messy, and brutal, and he certainly wasn't in control. He also burned a lot of blood, and needs to heal, so it's time to Hunt. While doing so, he gets an Interrupt. It's Irene, and she's "Opposing" "Adversities." She's heard about Kasmir's plans (though not details about the hit), and wants to help. Which makes sense, because she's using Andrei as much, if not more so, than Capone is. As usual, Andrei is the last to know what the hell is going on.

She arranges a meeting with Andrei with one of the dominate leaders of the Mafiya, Viggo. He continues his Hunt for a few hours, and succeeds in acquiring enough to bring his blood pool up to Max. Refreshed and fully healed, Andrei heads to the meeting, and the Chaos Factor drops to 6.

Viggo is very disappointed in Andrei...
Again, a Random event threatens to alter the scene. "PC Negative." "Oppress" "Failure." Despite multiple attempts on Sergei's life and other attacks by the Bloods, Viggo is blaming the violence and discord on Andrei. Viggo, despite being a mortal, seems like he's going to a significant NPC, so I bust out the UNE.

0. Preconceived Facts: Mafiya Boss
1. What is this NPC: Optimistic Stewart
2. He is Comparable to Andrei in power. Well, more powerful on the Streets, but "just" a mortal.
3. Motivations: learn racism, determine secret societies. support science

He's generally a fairly jovial guy, with an emphasis on the "business" part of things. He is a racist ass, though, and believes in the inferiority of certain skin colors, a Jewish global conspiracy, and fringe and junk science that promotes these beliefs.

Andrei has to argue his case to the pissed off Boss, particularly since Viggo had actually authorized the hit on Sergei! Andrei makes a series of challenging social rolls, and even burns two points of Willpower to get some automatic successes, to convince him that Kasmir is the real threat. Viggo isn't willing to buy it, but does, grudgingly, give Andrei a chance to prove his accusations.

Andrei argued his case well, and took some charge of the situation. Chaos Factor drops to 5. As he's leaving, he overhears some of the soldiers arguing about recent events. Seems like there's some major disagreement over which side they should go with.

Here's what I think is going on. The Russian Mob is mainly into smuggling, specifically heroin, weapons, and people. They currently sell to various minor gangs and groups in the Midwest. The Bloods offer a big buyer and distributor for their drugs, while the Mafia offers better "services"--political, financial, etc. They don't understand why the fight is happening, since for a long time the Bloods and the Mafia got along fine. The Mafia is weaker on the streets, but the Bloods also can't provide the "protection" the Italians can. It's currently a fairly civil disagreement among the Russians, but the possibility of a civil war is growing.

Andrei spends the rest of the night talking to his other Contacts and Allies, with no more Random Events. He gets a general overview of Kasmir, and what he's up to, but no ideas on how to get to this guy, how to prove he's allied with the Bloods, or how to stop this conflict. He does find out that he there's a member of Kasmir's crew he knows from around, Stefon (random Contacts roll).  Chaos Factor drops to 4.

He sleeps on it.

Next evening, he goes to visit Sergei and makes sure he's OK. Then, he goes to meet Stefon. First question is, Are they cool? Rather than using Mythic, Andrei rolls Charisma + Streetwise--yeah, they're cool. It's just business, right? So, they talk about what's going on, and Andrei is trying to get anything he can use against Kasmir.

  • Does Stefon know anything that can help him? I say it's Unlikely, and get an Absolutely Not! He's cool with Andrei, but really loyal to Kasmir, and according to him, Kasmir is the second coming of Don Coreleone.

Capone, the bastard who wants everything
for nothing.
Well, that went poorly. Chaos Factor increases to 5. With little help from his own network, Andrei reaches out to Capone. He needs more, damnit! If that fat fool wants him to be able to do anything, he's gotta put some skin in the game. Before the meeting, his beeper (I'm setting this game in the early 90's, apparently) goes off with a message from his mom (random event, "PC Negative" "Expose" "Innocents."). He calls her back, and she wants him to pick up some specific vodka she knows he knows how to get. She's having people over for dinner tomorrow night (and it's quite clear he has no choice regarding his attendance). When she mentions who's coming, he recognized them as family members of those associated with Kasmir's faction. It's not a direct threat, but Andrei gets the message anyway. He needs to end this conflict NOW, before anything happens to his family.

He meets with Capone, and makes a Charisma + Streetwise roll to politely explain his position. With 3 Success, Capone is at least willing to consider.
  • Can Capone help? Very Unlikely, otherwise, why would he need Andrei? Absolutely yes! He can't act directly, but he does know where and when Kasmir will be meeting with Kevin. Which is soon.
Chaos Factor increases to 6 (yeah, Andrei "won" the last scene, but the threat to his family shows how out of control things are going). Andrei rolls Contacts and, yes, there is a regular at the motel who has a top notch night vision camera he can "borrow" for a few hours in exchange for a month of rent-free stays. He then heads over to the meeting, which I decide is happening in a closed park. They're both vampires, so "sitting down and eating" isn't high on their list of priorities.

This looks like a good place for a criminal
conspiracy to meet.
Andrei spends two blood points to increase his Dexterity to 5. Neither Kasmir nor Kevin have Auspex, so I rule that they're relying on bodyguards to keep people away. Andrei rolls Dex + Stealth and gets 4 success versus the guards 2. He gets a decent spot to photograph the two of them together. I have him roll a Perception + Repair roll to determine the quality of the shot. He spends a Willpower and nets 3 success--it's a crisp, clear image. Now, all he has to do is sneak away. Dex+Stealth versus guards Perception+Alertness for 3 vs. 4 ( I KNEW I should have spent Willpower, damnit!)

He makes an awkward noise as he tries to sneak away, and some guards come looking. He tries to walk away casually, but they're not buying it...they come after him and a chase begins. Do Kasmir or KJ get involved? That depends on:
  • Do they think this is a threat to them? I say this is Likely, but no. The two Kindred are unconcerned.
What follows is almost a comedy of errors. Despite having Celerity (and burning it every damn turn), Andrei just can not roll well against the guards. They stay right on his heals for 3 turns, and it's rather pathetic. It's only the use of Celerity that nets him that critical extra success to keep his pursuers off his ass. But, the dice finally turn, and he's able to lose them in some alleys.

Last scene started so well, but at the end, it became a joke, and so Chaos Factor increases to 7.  After burning all that blood, it's back to the Hunt, and thankfully no Random Event happens.

He heads back to the Motel, and gets his Contact to develop the photograph. again no Random Event.

I decide that Andrei is back enough in control to drop the Chaos Factor to 6. Evidence in hand, he heads to the meeting with Viggo. But, Random Events come back--"NPC Action" "Usurp" "Weapons." Kasmir is already there, with his own evidence that Andrei has been working for the Italians all this time. 

Andrei needs to counter this, and the question is, does he know enough about Viggo? He rolls Int + Streetwise, and gets 1 success. He knows Viggo is a racist dick. He argues that it's better to team up with the Italians over the Blacks, and rolls Charisma + Streetwise and gets 4 success. He's defended himself, but there's still a question of:
  • Does Viggo buy Andrei's arguments and align with the Italians? 50/50, and "no."
He may be a racist asshole, but he's also a Steward. "This isn't about black or white, my dear Andrei, it's about green. Business. Business always comes first."  He's willing to entertain both alliances, but wants to see which one will most benefit the Organization--the high risk/high reward alliance with the Bloods, or the slower and safer path with the Mafia. 

Of course, Kasmir is there, and he's got Dominate.
  • Is he going to fuck all this up? 50/50. Nope. Kevin was just earlier giving him shit about the violence, and so he agrees. 
This will be a battle of influence, not blood. For not at least. The war is adjourned, and Andrei now needs to figure out how to be a proper gangster. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Night at the Opera part 1 -- Solo Vampire -- 3rd Session

(Last time, Andrei's sister had worked out an alliance with the Tremere to discover an artificial replacement for vitae. This is a BIG DEAL, so I assume it's going to take some time to move forward. Basically, this thread is going to sit in the background for a bit. We begin a month or so later, as winter sets in on the Windy City.)

First thing I do is update the lists for my characters and threads. Nathan, Marshall, and Sergei are all added. "Money owed to Mafiya" is dropped, and "Mob War," "True Blood" and "Nathan's Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal" are added. I also decide that with his Herd, Andrei feeds well without issue, and start him with 11 out of 12 for Blood Pool.

I know most people hate this book, but
I find it so goddamn awesome.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to do something a bit different, and instead of using the random generation from Mythic for starting scenes, I'm going to use the ones from Chicago by Night. I roll against the list, and get a scene of a bunch of cats following my character around. I find this uninspiring for Andrei, and roll again. This one is more interesting "Intrigue: Night at the Opera."

Andrei receives a ticket to the Opera that night. Unsure of what this means, he decides to go with it. He assumes it's a vampire, as he's heard how much the Elders love their games. How well does he play the game? First, can he effectively fit in at the elite scene at the Opera? I have him roll Appearance (2) + Etiquette (1), at a Difficulty of (10 - Resources (2)) 8. With 1 success, he doesn't stand out TOO much. There's also a question of his actions, as this is not his normal ground. Charisma + Etiquette (Dif 7) gives him 3. That's enough to pass the little test, and he's escorted by some large men to a limo waiting out back.

Oh yeah, Andrei blends right in here...
Inside is Capone (yup, him), one of Lodin's top lieutenants.  Even Andrei knows who he is. Capone is willing to offer the neonate the opportunity of a lifetime. He claims that Lodin has granted him control over the Russian mob, but that he is willing to allow Andrei to have "street control" so long as he offers his loyalty and obedience in exchange. Andrei attempts to get some sense of what is going (and get a better deal for himself), and they engage in a Manipulation + Streetwise challenge. Andrei gets 1 success, while Capone gets 4. With a net 3, Andrei hears what he wants to hear, and Capone ends up getting everything he wants. Seriously Andrei, stop messing around with Elders...

And what DOES Capone want Andrei to do? For that, I roll on the Random Event Chart for ideas, and get "PC Positive," "Adjourn," and "War." I decide that Kevin Jackson (Lodin's childe in charge of the Bloods) also has a pawn striving to take over the Mafiya, and Capone wants me to bring some sort of peace, to avoid an all out mob war that will attract undue attention. That, and more importantly, it might annoy the crap out of Lodin.

So, who is this rival of Andrei's?

  • Is he a Kindred? 50/50. Yes.
Ok. So, at this point I decide it's NOT someone from Chicago by Night, and instead a new player. I bust out my UNE, and roll some dice to see who this bastard is.
0. Pre-conceived facts: he's a vampire working for Kevin Jackson to take over the Russian Mob.
1. What is the NPC: Unconcerned Hermit
2. He is comparable to Andrei in power (also a neonate).
3. Motivations: Discover Zeal, Complete Affluence, Attend Slavery

I decide that Kasmir was recently released from prison. He used to be a terror on the streets, and was embraced by Kevin. He's completing the task his sire assigned him, but honestly he's bored and tired of the street fighting. He wants money, and wealth, but he wants it to live in refined idleness. His feeding restriction is that he can only feed from those who are enslaved (like most Ventrue ones, he can't just do it himself, the victim has to be enslaved by someone else.) I figure at this point that the Russian's are mainly smugglers, which includes human cargo; a useful connection for Kasmir.

At the end of the scene, I increase the Chaos Factor to 6. I add Capone and Kasmir to the character list, and "Mob War" to the plot threads. Andrei has heard of Kasmir (Int + Streetwise, 1 success) but needs more info. He calls up Sergei to try and get more information. I roll for randomness, and get a 6. For the event, I get "NPC Action" "Move" "Dispute." With little thought, I decide that Kasmir already knows about Capone's plans (well, Jackson does, and he passed the word along), and has decided to start taking out Andrei's support. There's a hit out for Sergei!
Normally I don't plan on doing a "blow by blow" for combat, but honestly? I kept screwing things up. I thought I knew how 1st Ed combat works, but I was wrong. So, I'm doing all the rules so you can all laugh at me
Sergei and Andrei meet in a hip and busy club. Sergei knows Kasmir, and is worried about this guy teaming up with the Bloods. He fills Andrei on the slavery connection (Int+Occult, fail, he doesn't "get" what this means for feeding). Suddenly, Andrei sees a gunman approaching the table.

I use Mythic to determine that Kasmir sent 1 hitman, and that it wasn't a human. So, a bad ass ghoul it is!

Andrei ain't that fast. Or sexy.
Round 1  I decide to do Narrative combat, by the book. I give Andrei a Perception + Streetwise, and the ghoul Hitman...crap. There's no stats for gang members (I should've remembered this from last time). I use the stats for a SWAT member. Anyway, he rolls Wits + Streetwise. Andrei wins by 5 successes, so he goes first. He spends a Blood Point to activate Celerity. With 5 successes, I also say that he sees that the target is Sergei, not him. So, with his first action, he grabs Sergei and throws him under the table. Strength + Dodge, 4 success. I declare that these will count as "dodge rolls" for Sergei. For his second action, he throws a bottle from the table, trying to distract the Hitman. Dexterity + Athletics, and fails.  Hitman attacks Sergei with a sub-machine gun. Even with the 4 bonus dodges, Sergei gets chewed up and takes 4 levels of damage.

Round 2 At this point, I realize that I had was confused by Narrative combat, which I've always run on sort of a "whatever" basis. I decide to go back to "standard" combat.  So, Andrei spends another Blood Point, draws his gun, and fires at the Hitman. He hits, but dude soaks everything, and Andrei tosses it aside in disgust. For his second action, he rushes in and attempts to Throw the Hitman. Andrei: 3 successes, Hitman 1 success. Damage 4, With the Throw maneuver, the Hitman should be stunned, unless he spends a Willpower point. Of course he does, since he's a badass ghoul. He spends a blood point to heal damage. He then fires two three-round bursts from his gun, and Andrei takes 0 damage and 3, respectively. That kind of damage risks Frenzy, and so Andrei rolls Courage. He succeeds, but barely.
This is my first major screw up. Andrei's melee attack should have changed things. In 1st Ed, Melee attacks are opposed, with only the winner doing any damage. So, both participants roll Dex + Brawl (in this case). However, Hitman rolled his Dex and Brawl, which should have prevented him from shooting this turn. Or he could have split his dice pool. In either case, he should have taken more damage from Andrei's throw, or not been able to attack. 
Round 3 Andrei spends a blood point, and rushed over and knees the Hitman in the stomach. Hitman splits his die pool, but Andrei still succeeds with 2 damage after soak. He then decides he wants this bastard alive, and tries to do a grapple. He barely wins, with 1 more success over the Hitman (who had to split his die pool, remember, so this is just sad). Hitman's out of actions this turn, but spends blood to heal.

Round 4 Andrei again spends blood for celerity, and attempts to pin the Hitman. They make opposed rolls, and the Hitman breaks free. Andrei then just punches him. 2 damage, but the Hitman soaks. Andrei has to keep rolling to resist Frenzy. The Hitman split his die pool to break free, but not resist the punch. He shoots at Andrei, and scores a mild hit. He also heals a level of damage.
And this is when I realize ANOTHER screw up, I think. I'd had both Andrei and the Hitman spend Willpower to ignore wound penalties. But, here's the thing, I couldn't find ANY reference to this in 1st Ed, either under Combat, Health, or Willpower. I don't think you CAN do it in 1st Ed. 
Round 5 Andrei spends a blood point on Celerity and punches the Hitman. Applying Wound Penalties, this is to Andrei's advantage.  He manages to land 2 damage after soak. Second attack, more of the same, and manages to finally roll lucky. It helps that the Hitman completely fails his defense roll, and Andrei lands 5 levels of damage after soak. The Hitman is dead.

Save me, World's Greatest Screen!
This was a mess of a fight. In fact, the whole process of running this game has gotten rather unwieldy. I have to make some changes. Unsurprisingly, this goes back to the idea of "run the game like you would any other." I need to whip up a GM screen with the key rules for 1st, at least until I really have it down. I need to stat up some NPC's, particularly various gang members, since they seem to be ongoing threats. I'm using both the Mythic GM Emulator and the Universal NPC Emulator, and it's just getting to be a bit much--I need to create my own cheat sheets to make them easier to work with. Part of this is my fault--I have the U.N.E. as a pdf, and keeping my laptop within easy reach further screws up the table.  So, I need to work on some logistical elements to this game.

Anyway, that's enough for this post. I actually went all the way through this adventure, which we'll pick up next time!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thoughts on Solo Roleplaying

I've managed to make it through my first Solo adventure, and I wanted to take some time to talk about what it's been like and what my thoughts are on it.
First of all, it's fun! It's a different kind of fun than one gets either playing or running a standard tabletop RPG, but this is unsurprising. It's also not the same kind of fun as one has developing a new game--creating a setting, NPC's, plots, mysteries, etc. It's not like a "choose your own adventure" or writing "fanfic." It's still a game, and that means it's still unpredictable and that you can still fail. Believe me, if I was writing fanfic, Andrei would not have been slapped around by every lick with Dominate....

Secondly, is see now why some people were warning me about being overly "random." You really do need to treat a Solo game as you would any game. You obviously don't need to develop plots, but settings and characters and themes are still key to it. I initially planned on making up the setting as I went along, and only use a published setting in a pinch--and even then, mostly for stats. Well, that changed real fast--you need a living, breathing setting as much in a Solo game as you do in standard one. Maybe even more so.

Third, I was surprised how quickly the Emulator (the tool used to replicate the GM in a Solo game), faded into the background. By the time I was playing the second session, it was pretty much intuitive and didn't alter the flow anymore than rolling any skill check in the game. I've been using the Mythic GM Emulator, and it's been very solid.

Having said that, there are other options out there I'm interested in playing around with.

Conjecture Games has a couple of different products out. and their Emulator looks interesting. I'm particularly intrigued by their  NPC Emulator, the UNE.

Larcenous Designs  has a system called ALONe. It looks a tad more complicated than Mythic, but at the same time providing even more useful information. It's not mathematically more complicated, as it's card based.

Both of these have "pay what you want options" and I'll be looking to pick them up and give them a whirl soon. In fact, I'm currently waiting on Larcenous Designs Horror deck.

There are a few other changes I'd like to make, though. First off, I hate basic Masquerade combat. Any edition. It's just...boring and painful. In fact, I've never really enjoyed combat in any White Wolf game. This is probably the main reason I fell out of Werewolf--for a game that's supposed to be bloody, raw, and action packed, the game just died every time I've ever had to roll for initiative. So, I'll be using the "Narrative Combat" rules from the 1st Ed Storytellers Handbook. I've talked about it before here.

I also want to change around how backgrounds work. I haven't done a lot of LARPing in my time, but I do recall liking how the LARP books handled backgrounds. I'm just not sure which one to get? The Original Masquerade? Laws of Night? Laws of Night (revised)? Or go with the latest from By Night Studios?

Can you tell how much I
love this book?
I also need to make some tweaks to the Random Events, particularly for the initial adventure idea. Chicago by Night has it's own take on "random events" in the appendix, and there's in broken down by Theme--betrayal, romance, etc. I'm going to see if I can effectively mash that up with Mythic, to better hit the Vampire element in the game.

But, again, solo roleplaying is pretty darn fun! If you ever find yourself with a quite night ahead of you, and you can't play your normal game with your friends, I highly recommend giving it a shot!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Walks Alone in Darkness -- 2nd Session

When we left Andrei, he was out on the Hunt. However, something Interrupted him. I roll for random events and get "Introduce NPC" "Praise" and "Success." Rolling for the NPC, I end up with Nathan, a particularly sociopathic Kindred, with an abiding goal of slaying every last vampire in the city. Though, in the meantime, he is playing the various factions against each other. Andrei rolls his Politics, and does recognize the terrifying Nosferatu as one the Prince's top enforcers.

Nathan is initially mocking of Andrei, and wonders aloud just what, exactly, he is hoping to achieve. Andrei initially assumes he means the hit he just stopped, but it's clear Nathan is referring to something else (my call, Nathan is ridiculously well informed individual, and him knowing more than Andrei about what is going on makes sense). The two engage in a battle of wits, and Andrei inadvertently slips his desire to meet Nicolai. Nathan seems mockingly impressed, but offers Andrei any help he may need. An offer Andrei has no intention of accepting.

I use the standard Hunting rules. Normally, Andrei could use his Herd, but it's still rather early in the evening for his preferred method. Two hours of hunting gives him one success, but that's all he needs. Feeding off the bums and cast offs of the city, he is able to net 9 blood points, which allows him to heal his wounds and leave him with a comfortable 10 blood pool.

Moving on to Succubus, I leave the Chaos Factor as is, as the hunting and brief scene with Nathan ended up being more or less of a wash for Andrei. Andrei is still being tailed however, so I give him another chance to notice them. He botches, and I decide that this means he will get no more rolls to spot them unless something external draws his attention. Anyway, Succubus is the happening place, and even on weeknight it's one of the most popular destinations in Chicago.

  • Is Gordon here? Likely, he is a regular after all. Yes.
Gordon is a wealthy, full of himself, sociopathic stockbroker type. Andrei is a thug. Granted, Gordon's undead state means he has to associate with those he never would have in his breathing days, but Andrei is a nobody (Status 0). So, I make Andrei roll Charisma + Etiquette to see how well he approaches Gordon. Surprisingly, he gets three success. The two are able to chat amicably for a short time, before he asks what Andrei wants. Andrei tries his best to present the meeting with Nicolai as a casual thing, but fails his Charisma check. Gordon tells him to fuck off (his association with the Tremere is a thing few know). They engage in a Stare Down, and Gordon gets the better of Andrei.

Dominating Andrei, Gordon leads him to the Labyrinth, a maze like section in Succubus, full of shadowy corners and twisting passages, where everyone aggressively minds their own business. He tries to further Dominate Andrei, and while Andrei does his best to resist, he ultimately botches his Willpower, and falls completely under the spell of the Anarch. 

  • Does Gordon still take the meeting idea to Nicolai? This is Unlikely at best. But, it's a Definite Yes. 
  • Does Gordon leave any long term commands for Andrei? I assume this is Very Likely, but No. Gordon is most likely panicking a bit right now, and not thinking things through very well.
Since Gordon has a Dominate greater than 3, Andrei has no idea what happened after they went into the Labyrinth, what was asked, answered, or anything else. I move onto the new scene.

That was a rough bit for Andrei, and so the Chaos Factor increases to 6. I have no idea what Gordon Dominated Andrei to do, so I roll for a random event--not even bothering with worrying about interrupts or the like. I get "PC Positive" (FINALLY), "Violate" (uh oh) and "New Ideas." Well...with some brief though, this scene comes to mind.

Andrei gripped the cold gun closer to his side, his unliving body doing nothing to warm the metal. He should have turned the gun on himself; his life both as a man and as this...thing had been nothing more than a joke. His sister was dead, and he had caused it. Some petty vamp BULLSHIT had cost Elena her life. And now that sick son of a bitch was walking around, wearing her face, and lying to him. Making him feel like he wasn't alone, that there might be some damn hope for him, and instead laughing at him all the time.
All that was left for him now was to avenge her, to shoot that smug asshole right the damn face and then leave him staked for the sun to kiss.
He turned the corner, the Daybreak just a few miles ahead. And then there she was, walking by, completely oblivious to him. It was so obvious now..this thing didn't have her walk, her easy way with people, her confidence and her light. Hell, she didn't even look right, more like the college grad she had been years ago, before everything went to shit. It was a dark, hollow thing pretending to be her. He twisted the wheel and harshly parked the car in front of her.
"Hey brother" the thing began, as Andrei put one bullet precisely between her eyes. It crumbled. And then...and then Andrei realized just what he had done. Tossing the weapon away, he rushed to her side, pulling her body close to him, turning to look into her eyes, and seeing...
The Nos had of course followed the Brujah to the meeting, and neither Andrei nor Gordon had any hope of noticing him. Unwilling to loose this interesting lead, he had decided to help out, by taking Elena's form (he of course picked Andrei's wallet at their first meeting, and the photo of her in it was an old one). Once Andrei had completed the job Gordon gave him, the Dominate was broken. Andrei is enraged now. He asks Nathan to get Elena out of the motel, but Nathan wisely point out that she'd be safer moving during the day. Still, Andrei asks Nathan to go keep her safe, and also calls on his friend Victor. He's not taking any chances with his sister.

  • Is Nathan trustworthy? No, he's a murderous psychopath. But, a patient one whose curiosity is piqued ...Very Unlikely. Yes. So, he will go and keep Elena safe, but he's certainly going to find out what's going on for himself..  
This really didn't go well for Andrei, so I increase Chaos Factor to 7--it was only through an NPC that this didn't end as a macabre tragedy. He rushes back to Succubus (no interrupt), looking for some payback on that smug bastard.
  • Is Gordon still there? No Way. No.
  • Anyone know where? Very Unlikely. Yes. I have Andrei make a Charisma + Leadership roll to see if anyone would help him. 3 Success gets him that Gordon left for a "big meeting," drives a Mercedes, and has a plate W1NN3R.
  • Is he meeting with Nicolai directly? Very Unlikely. Yes
He reaches out to his police Contact Michael Finn, and once Andrei mentions that Elena could be in danger, Officer Finn has a BOLO put out for Gordon's car. I roll Contacts to see how effective this all, and net 3 success. The car is found fairly quickly. 

Chaos Factor drops to 6, Andrei is back in the game. Until an Interrupt hits--"Move Away from Thread," "Neglect," and "Fears."  The Thread he's following is to meet Nicolai, and his main fear is his Claustrophobia from his youth. In 1st, you can spend Willpower to resist a Derangement for one scene. So, Nicolai and Gordon are meeting in an underground cave in one of the parks. If it wasn't for his sister, Andrei wouldn't set foot in such a thing. Of course, if it wasn't for his sister, he wouldn't have been claustrophobic, nor would he had been out here in the first place.

The irony, alas, was lost on him.

Andrei's stealth is good, but there's no way he's creeping up on someone like Nicolai. The Tremere leader notices his approach, and uses Movement of the Mind to crush the passageway with Andrei inside. This is too much for him--he rolls his willpower but fails, losing consciousness as the earth closes in around him.

Once again, he's captured by someone with ridiculously high Dominate, and Andre's willpower is not up to the task. I give him a few rolls but, no, he's not going to win this round. 
  • In Nicolai interested in meeting with Elenda? 50/50. He has to at least be curious, right? Absolutely not, he doesn't want to be within 100 meters of her.
  • Will he send someone else? 50/50. Yes.
  • Any long term commands placed? Very Likely. Absolutely not. Maybe Nicolai knows exactly what Elena is...
Andrei comes to in the park, the cave nowhere to be seen. Next to him a young, well dressed black man, who introduces himself as "Marshall" (Politics roll...Andrei knows him from hanging out with some Anarchs, but somehow (*cough* Dominate *cough*) knows to take him to see Elena.

Things didn't go well for Andrei, but he is advancing his goal. So, Chaos Factor drops to 5. Roll for interrupt, and get 1. "NPC Positive," "Advance" "Stalemate." Rolling on the adventure character list, I get Nathan. I arbitrarily declare that he found some key info that will help his war against the other vampires, but it will take time for him to utilize it. 

So, Marshall and Andrei head to the hotel for the big meeting. Elena believes that this is Nicolai, a mistake Marshall does nothing to correct.  She knew that Nicolai was young, but not so handsome and dashing. She is initially flustered, as she certainly wasn't planning to meet with him HERE, at the Daybreak, and her presentation isn't set up. The vampire calms her, and asks her what can he do for her. She speaks highly of "his" work in funding non-mainstream science, and his willingness to look beyond the possible.  They speak of bizarre topics that Andrei can't even hope to follow along (Science and Occult are not his strong suits), before the conversation comes to a lull. Marshall is well aware of how little night is left, as are all the undead in the room, and finally asks what help does she need.

  • Does it involve vampires? Unlikely, since she did NOT know Nicolai was one. Yes.
  • Does she know about Andrei? 50/50, as she is a Mage, after all. Yes.
  • Is it a "cure."? 50/50. No.
  • Undue a weakness? 50/50 No.
  • Involve Feeding? 50/50. Yes.
  • Artificial blood? Unlikely. Yes
She knows about Andrei, and is seeking a way to help him, and others so afflicted. Her Mage allies won't follow her down this path, so she sought out the slightly mobbed up/dirty billionaire with an affection for fringe science and long-shot research. She truly believes she can help her brother, but all the audacity of what she proposes leaves all the Kindred in stunned silence.  I end the adventure there.

There's a few follow up questions though. 
  • Will Marshall take this to Nicolai? Unlikely. Yes.
  • Is Nicolai interested in such a thing? No Way. Yes.
So, now a rogue Mage is going to work with the Tremere to find a way to synthesize blood. Any vampire who controls such knowledge would have an amazing advantage, and this could permanently change the entire world of the undead. Some would hoard such knowledge for themselves, freeing them of the need for mortals and the dangers they involve. Others would see it as a way to "step out of the coffin" and live openly with mortals. Some would view as a mockery of their existence and destroy it out of fanatical spite. More would simply destroy it to keep it out of hands of those who MIGHT abuse it.

And then there are those like Nathan, who see the beginning of the end for all vampires, if only he can play his cards right...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Walks Alone in Darkness -- 1st Session

I wasn't able to play very much of the Solo vampire game I was so excited by. This past weekend was rather hectic, and I did manage to squeeze in an old school AD&D game as well as the beginning of a new Fireborn game. So, I can't complain too much.  Still, it was pretty fun, and I'm eager to try it again.

For this post, I'm going to break down what happened and the "minutes" of the rules and how they worked for clarity. Future posts most likely won't go into such extreme detail, instead only focusing on significant results. But, given that this is the first, and some people had questions as to how solo roleplaying works, I'm going to consider this as an "example of play." Also, those who are more experienced than I might be able to point where I went wrong and methods to improve my game.

Alright, let's get into it! Before the game can start, I need to do some housekeeping. Mythic uses various lists to keep track of major NPC's and well as major "plot threads" in game. Since the game hasn't started, you need to create an initial list based on the characters. These are NPC's that matter to your character, regardless of their roll in the game. Basically, whoever YOU find interesting. Fortunately, Vampire helps with this with their Background rules. Here's Andrei's NPC's:

  1. Elena -- sister
  2. Irinia -- sire
  3. Alina -- mother
  4. Michael Finn -- cop/army buddy (Contact)
  5. Faith -- prostitute (Contact)
  6. Ortiz -- Latin Kings shot caller/army buddy (Contact)
  7. Victor -- Mafiya hitman/childhood friend (Ally)
  8. Jessica -- ex-wife
  9. Tenants at Daybreak Motel -- Herd
Threads are ongoing plot lines, struggles, and "issues" that affect the character.  Andrei is, currently, a fairly reactive guy who is still dealing with this whole "being a vampire" thing. Here's the threads I come up with for him:
  1. Debt to Modius
  2. Debt to Juggler
  3. Conflict with Jugglers crew over feeding/using Daybreak Motel
  4. Money owed to Mafiya
  5. Protect the Daybreak
  6. Family Ties
With all that out of the way, I roll a d10 to determine Andrei's current blood pool (as a member of the 11th Generation, he has a max pool of 12). I get a 9, so he's hungry, but not too bad. His herd is the tenants of the motel, and he normally waits until late at night when even they have gone to sleep to feed off of them. Since I decide to start the game early one evening (I arbitrarily decided on a Tuesday, in the Fall), it's going to be a while before he can feed. 

Now, I need to determine what's going on. You're "supposed" to actually have some idea for what your character wants to accomplish and start the first scene at the logical beginning of that story, same as you would any game. But, I have no idea right now, so I use the random method. All rolls for Mythic are percentiles.

First, I roll for the "Event Focus" and get a 93--NPC positive. Since I have no NPC's for the "adventure list," I need to use one off of Andre's "character list." I have nine NPC's, so I roll a d10 (figuring a 10 would be a reroll), and get a 1, his sister. I wasn't planning on bringing in the "magic sister" thing quite yet, but...sure. I then roll for the "Event Meaning" on the "Action" and "Subject" Tables, and get "Move" and "Joy."

I decide Elena has moved into the Daybreak earlier that day, actually renting two adjoining rooms. Andrei rushes to her room (well, one of them), to find out what the hell she is doing there. The two have a cool relationship for siblings, and her being here is weird. Also, the Daybreak ain't the Four Seasons. He's worried about her, and rather freaked out that she would even come to his Motel, let alone check in!

This is the Fate Chart. Once you roll a few times, it's pretty intuitive.
In a normal table top RPG, this would be a dialogue driven role-playing scene. But, in a Solo game it goes a bit different. Mythic contains a "Fate Chart." You ask various question and assign them various degrees of likelihood, from "Has to be" to "Impossible" with "50/50" being the middle. There's also a "Chaos Rank" value and, as each scene ends, the Chaos Rank changes. So, at Chaos Rank 5, 50/50 has a 50% chance of succeeding. High Chaos means things are more likely to be "yes"--at Chaos 9, a "50/50" likelihood has a 95% chance of being "yes" while at Rank 1, it only has a 10%. It's a bit fiddly, and I'm still wrapping my head around it. But, here's what I did with it. The game starts at Chaos Rank 5.

So, Andrei has rushed to Elena's room, and she is crazy excited to see him and happier than he has seen her in years. They briefly catch up, trading obvious lies to each other about their lives, before Andrei asks what the hell she is doing there?

  • Does Elena say why she is there? Unlikely (people don't tend to explain why they're really at a place like Daybreak). "Unlikely" means there's only a 35% chance the answer is "yes"--I roll a 28. So, Yes, Elena will tell Andrei why she is there. Now, I need to figure out why the hell she is there.
  • Is she in trouble? Very Likely, I figure--why else would a brilliant and accomplished scientist/mage (not sure if she's Technocracy yet or what) check into a sleazy motel owned by her big gangster brother other than because she's trouble? That's an 85% chance but..NO. She's not in trouble.
  • Is she worried about Andrei? Unlikely, but possible. I roll a 90, which isn't just a "no" but an Emphatic No! In fact, it means it's the exact opposite. She wants him to do something for her. Something she believes will be in his best interest. She doesn't have to force him or lie to him, instead she appeals to his love of family. As a Conformist, Andrei agrees to go along with this. Whatever "this" is.
  • Does she want him to steal something? Likely, he is a crook, after all. But, no.
  • Does she want an introduction? 50/50, he is semi-connected. Yes.
  • Does she want an introduction to a vampire? Unlikely. I'm not sure exactly how much the two of them know about each others secrets, but I assume she doesn't know what Andrei is. Or, Andrei assumes that at least. Anyway, I roll a 12, so, yes, she wants to meet a vampire.
  • I don't know which Vampire it is, so I assign the following odds. 1-7 is a neonate or ancilla of the core clans (Brujah, Gangrel, etc.). 8-9 is a "special" (Sabbat, caitiff, someone from Gary, non-Camarilla Kindred), 10 is someone special and powerful. Of course I roll a 10. I assign values to the Primogen, Lodin, Rebekah, and Helen. I roll a 2, and get Nicolai, the head of the Tremere. This...this actually makes a bit more sense.
  • Does Andrei know who Nicolai is? I give him an Int+Politics roll, and get a single 6. I decide he's heard the name from some of the Anarchs, enough to know that Nicolai is a big deal, yet still a "little fuckin' asshole." 
  • Does Elena say why she wants to meet Nicolai? Likely, but no. It's a bit complicated, but she assures Andrei when all this is done, all of them will be better.
  • Does Elena even know what she is asking? 50/50 she knows Nicolai is a vamp, or at least supernatural. But, no. Whatever she's planning, she's underestimating the other players involved.
At this point, the scene is at an end. Andrei really wasn't in control in this scene; Elena held all the cards. I increase the Chaos Rank to 6. Andrei has agreed to introduce her to Nicolai, but has no idea how to get in touch with him. He goes to meet Irina, his sire, hoping she might know. I figure he has a pretty good idea on her routine, and so knows where she is most likely going to be that night--a fairly quite bar downtown. Before that scene begins, though, I need to roll against the Chaos Factor to see if the next scene is altered in some way--I get a "6", and so it is. In fact, it's an "Interrupt." I roll for a random event, and get "Remote Event," "Trust," "Liberty." I'm not sure what to make of this, so I determine that someone else is interested in what is going on, but is currently letting things play out. They have put a tail on Andrei though, to keep a tab on things, though. I have him roll Perception + Drive to spot it. He fails, and so continues on his merry way. I add "Elena," "The Tail," and "Hidden Players" to the list of NPC's for the adventure, and "Meet with Nicolai" to the adventure Thread list.

At the Underground Bar, he hopes to meet with Irina. She's his sire, and his and Elena's grandmother, so Andrei is going to be up front with her.

  • Is Irina there? Very Likely--Andrei knows her well. Yes.
  • Does she know Nicolai? Very Likely--he's a Primogen, and she's been around a while. Yes.
  • Does she have an "in" with Nicolai? No Way--he's a Primogen, and she's a minor Anarch. Emphatic No! Looks like Irina has pissed off the Tremere in the past...
  • Does she know anyone who would? Unlikely. An Emphatic Yes! The only logical person is Gordon (a caitiff who works with/for the Tremere). 
  • Does she want something for this info? 50/50. It's a family thing, and she's his mentor, but she has her own agenda. Yes.
  • Is it pro-Mafiya? Emphatic yes!
I decide that there's something going down, and soon. Her personal Masquerade is "mob moll," so she doesn't want to get directly involved herself, but Andrei's is "semi-connected ex-thug trying to go straight" so he can be a bit more blatant. She tells him to wait till a certain time, then leave by an employee exit. Kevin Jackson's Bloods are making a hit, and she wants Andrei to stop it.

He heads out after spending a blood point to boost his Dex by 1. He sees a group of 5 Bloods ready to attach an unaware member of the Russian Mob (with girlfriend and bodyguard in tow). I run this as a normal vampire battle. Andrei gets the drop on the Bloods, and activates his Celerity. I figure Celerity 1 doesn't risk the Masquerade (though higher levels certainly do!), and so this is pretty safe. He's able to charge in and take down one of the hitmen hard. The rest change their target to the new threat, and a barrage of bullets heads his way. He's pretty lucky, but still takes a couple of wounds. I figure there's a risk of Frenzy in this scene, and being a Brujah only makes things worse for Andrei. He rolls his Courage (remember, I'm using 1st Ed rules), and succeeds enough to not Frenzy. The second round he uses Celerity again, gets one hit in, and saves the other for dodging. The gangster (who I dub "Sergei" cause...why not?) and his bodyguard get involved. Two of the Bloods get wounded. Andrei is able to get enough successes to resist Frenzying for the scene. The Bloods actually win initiative on round 3, but unnerved by the sudden changes, they get the hell out of dodge. 

Sergei is grateful, and of course offers to help Andrei to a doc to get patched up. Andrei burns a blood point to "bleed" believably, and succeeds on a  Charisma +  Subterfuge check, telling them it's a minor thing, and he has an EMT back at his motel who owes him one. They believe he'll be fine, but Sergei knows who Andrei is and is now in his debt. 

The scene went decently well for Andrei.  He got a bit of a lead for his main goal, and has secured his ties to the mafiya--it's unlikely anyone will give him a hard time for being a bit late on his payments, and he might even have gotten another Ally out of this. I reduce the Chaos Factor by 1 back to 5. I update the Thread list with "mob war" and add Irina, Blood hitmen, and Sergei to the Character list. 

But, Andrei is in a bad spot. He's down three health levels, and has spent 4 of his 9 blood points. He needs to feed, and to heal. Before heading off to meet with Gordon (most likely at Succubus, because everyone is at Succubus), I decide he needs to Hunt. Before resolving that, I roll against the Chaos Factor and get a 1--an Altered Scene.

Andre's night is going to keep getting interesting...

Friday, January 8, 2016

Solo Vampire -- Character Creation

As I've mentioned in my previous post, I'm going to try run a solo game of Vampire for myself. I play the character like I normally would, using all the standard rule but will use the Mythic GM Emulator to determine what's going on, what twists and changes happen, and the likelihood of events that aren't covered in the basic rules. As part of this, I want to embrace chaos and randomness, and so I'll also be using the Random Prelude generator from the Masquerade Players Kit.  I have never used this before, so I have no idea if it's any good. But, it reminds me of other features of 1st Ed. Vampire, when they still embraced being a "game" and had charts and random encounters, and everything wasn't so locked down and narrative driven.

Now, certain people (most notably +Zach Best), have pointed out that overly embracing chaos might not be the best decision. That I should approach the solo game with the same attitude as I would any game I would run. That I should detail the setting, develop NPC's, come up with a Theme and Mood, and just all the things one does when preparing a game to be played.

I have a hard time arguing against this idea. I mean, you really should do this. But...I'm not going to. I should have a couple of hours free this Friday night, and I want to play, damnit, not develop another setting. I want to test out the various rules--the GM Emulator, 1st Edition Vampire, and the Players Kit.  I want to throw all these toys on the table and see what I can do with them. If they're fun, I'll do it "proper" later, but for now, let me quote a man known far and wide for his wisdom and clear thinking:

Ok, let's see who our hero protagonist is going to be!

Ok, so, this guy has a bit going on. He was raised by a single mother, who struggled despite her education (worked in Research & Development, after all). His sister is a mage, and his grandmother is a vampire. Has a couple of mental issues, and a history of crime as his background.

His mother, despite her skills and training, was held back at the lab she worked due to her gender. She put up with it and stayed, as she had two children to think about. I'm going to assume that the vampire grandma is on the fathers side, and his Dad died as a result of vampire politicking and BS--his whole life he thought it was just a random act of violence.

I need a name, and given the criminal background and the fact I just rewatched John Wick the other night, I'm going with "generic Eastern European," so Andrei is it. Mom's name is Alina, Grandma is Irina, and Sister is Elena.

Well, no, I'm not very good with names...why do you ask?

So, Alina did what she could for her children, but Elena was obviously the favorite, the one who had inherited her intelligence and passions. Andrei was...disturbed. Something happened to him as a child that left him with claustrophobia, and I'm not sure what it is yet. I'm thinking the actual cause is somehow repressed. He was probably the victim of Elena's incipient gifts, and he experienced something he could never truly understand. This, and their mothers preference for her, leads them to having a cool relationship.

So, Andrei left home before finishing High School, and took to the streets, which further frayed his relationship with his mother. He and some friends were a small gang, focused mainly on mugging and small time robberies. He did ok, but eventually the law caught up to him, and he had to serve time in juvie. Per the chart, something happened in there that destroyed any interest he has in sex, and while I can imagine a few scenarios that could cause such a reaction, few of them do I wish to explore in depth. Let's just say that juvie was...unpleasant. He was able to get his GED, though, and thanks to a special program and his willingness to enlist, his record was expunged. (It's a bit more complicated than that, but we're doing a high level over view here, not a biography).

He served his four years, but when he left he had little to come home to. Through some old friends, he started working protection for a few prostitutes, before working his way up to being a pimp. He was able to finally "go legit." My first thought was "escort agency" but I rather like the idea of him trying his best to to get out of the game. Instead, he put his savings, and a rather healthy loan from the mob, to buying his own motel. It's a dive, and most of the clientele are prostitutes, johns, and addicts. But, it's a start. Or, it was, but he never quite able to move beyond that, no matter how much he tried.

He's obviously still tied to the Russian Mob, probably more than he realizes. His grandmother was most likely watching over the family, protecting them when she could, be leery of drawing too much attention to them. I assume that Elena was her initial chosen one, but when her magic became real, she left to pursue her own studies, Andrei became Irina's only choice. He secretly worked for her for a while, dealing with middle men. Had his marriage lasted (and given his issues with sex, it's no surprise that it fell apart), Irina would most likely have left him to live his life. But seeing him wasting away, alone and with no family, she felt she needed to intervene. She sent more work his way and gave increasing responsibilities. Responsibilities that ultimately led to him making the wrong enemies, and to him being shot in an alley. Unwilling to see him die like his father, she embraced him.

For Nature, I see him as inherently a Conformist. He just wants to belong, to be normal. He was ignored by his family for the crazy, wild sister that almost killed him, and he turned to his friends, which led him to crime, which led him to "the family." His Nature is "Bon Vivant"--part of being normal to him is having "stuff," being respected, and looking and acting like you have it all.

For Clan, I roll a D7 and get a Brujah, which is fine. I've never played a Brujah before, so let's see where this goes.

Chronicle Name? What else but "Alone in the Darkness."

Anyway, here's Andrei's sheet. (thanks to Mr.Gone)

I used my freebies to round out my skills and Backgrounds.

I'm not sure I want to mess around with Merits & Flaws, but he does have a few. First off, he's in debt to a couple of other Kindred. Assuming this takes place in Chicago 1st Ed, then that means Lodin is no longer allowing new embraces. Irina would have had to take him to Modius in Gary, who would have had to "backdate" Andrei's embrace to make it official. They both owe him. But, Irina didn't know Modius, and most likely she went through Juggler (the "anarch warlord" of Chicago), and so Andrei owes him as well.

Juggler--or, more accurately, his crew--is using Andrei's motel for temporary havens, sheltering out of town Anarchs, and for feeding. They're not their often, but even their occasional visits are putting a strain on his place. Worse, he's fallen into debt with the Mafiya (anarchs are notoriously bad at paying their bills...), and they're starting to put pressure on him.

For hunting, Andrei tends to prefer to prey on his guests while they are sleeping. The motel has some staff, which he generally leaves alone. They know he's "connected" and the owner, so his weird hours don't draw attention. But, they have no idea who he really is, and so don't qualify for "Retainer."

The Russian Mob is in an interesting transition. Unlike traditional American OC's, there's no central hierarchy.   It's also growing rapidly, and becoming a force on the streets. Both Capone and Kevin Jackson (both childer of Lodin, the Prince), are seeking to gain control over this new force. But neither wants an open war, and the mob's amorphous structure makes it difficult. Irina wants it for herself. She's tired of the failed revolutions, and being forced to work with others she views as beneath her (like Juggler), and so she is trying to make her own moves which will naturally put her at odds with both of these powerful Kindred. What roll she envisions for Andrei in the struggle is to be seen...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Solo Vampire

I don't get to play nearly as much as I would like. It's a side effect, I suppose, of where I am in life right now. Married, young children, etc., etc. It's a fairly common complaint for many of us slightly older gamers (SLIGHTLY! I'm not that old. I mean, Vampire Revised only just came, crap.). I'm lucky if I can squeeze in a game a week, and that's including playing online.

Of course, when I do game, I'm generally running the games. Now, I really enjoy running games, but sometimes I want to play. Even worse, those games that I most want to play are also the ones where I've become the default or only Storyteller that I know. I mean, I can generally find a game of D&D pretty easily, but Vampire? I haven't been able to PLAY in a game of Vampire for going on roughly 7 years now.

So, I decided to try out Solo Roleplaying. I first heard about this idea on G+. I forget how it caught my attention, but there's an excellent Community over there (Lone Wolf Roleplaying) that has really inspired me. Essentially, the role of the Storyteller is replaced with a "GM Emulator"--some sort of randomizer that answers question, inspires ideas, and keeps the game moving and unpredictable. Most skills and combats are resolved as one would using whatever system you like; the Emulator is there to keep things moving and a bit chaotic. Obviously, without a proper GM/Storyteller present, there are some issues. It would be laughably easy to "power game"--but why? I mean, you would only be cheating yourself. You could also "game" the system by asking certain question and giving them unreasonably high chances--but, again, why?  Finally, most of the actual "role" playing will happen in my head--I can't talk my way out of a situation, I need to rely on my characters Charisma+Leadership. The fun comes from me explaining and interpreting the dice results.

This all may sound a bit odd, but, hey, in addition to my love of Vampire I'm also something of an "old school" kind of guy, so random charts and tables and letting the "dice fall where they may" is something I love. It may be terrible, it may be awesome, but I just want it to not be boring.

So, my plan is to run myself through a session of Vampire. I'll hopefully do more, assuming that it's awesome. Or, you know, hilariously bad. For my base rules, I'm going with 1st Edition.  After comparing the various editions, I realized that I had never really understood 1st, and want to dig into it a bit. There's some oddness to it, sure, but I really want to give the Frenzy and Derangement rules a go.

I have a couple of other books I'll use for rules and ideas, but I really don't see this as a "mechanics heavy" kind of game. The ones I have set aside are:

The Players Guide in case I play a non-standard clan or just want to do something a bit unusual.

 The Storytellers Guide for NPC's and general ideas.

Chicago By Night in case I need NPC's. I'm actually not committed to this setting, despite my love for it.  In a normal Vampire game,  I would spend quite a bit of time doing research and coming up with Themes and Moods and NPC's that reflect these themes, settings, and the characters. For this, I kind of want to see what type of setting emerges from the randomness. If, however, nothing does, or if I need more, then Chicago by Night is ready to step up and fill in the gaps.

The Mythic GM Emulator will be handling the heavy lifting of being the Storyteller for this go around. There are number of options out there, many of which use Mythic as their base or inspiration but go their own way. While Mythic uses tables and charts, others use cards or dice.

Finally, in the spirit of randomness, I'm going to do something I have never done in Vampire--I'm going to make a random character! Several months ago, I picked up a used copy of the Masquerade Players Kit. While not a huge LARPer myself, I did admire the fact that it had a random Prelude rule set. I really enjoy random backgrounds and traits, and I'm still waiting for the Central Casting reprint Kickstarter to launch. In the next post, I'm going to make my character using these rules, and then we'll see what kinda of trouble finds our heroic, if lonely, vampire.

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