Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Vampire

The real reason I create games, beyond the fact that they're fun and I like to entertain my friends with them, is that I can't get them out of my head. I have three bouncing around right now, WotG, GURPS Space Opera (So much so that my next session is practically planned out already), and now Vampire.

I'm catching expected crap from unexpected sources, which leads to explanations and ideas floating around in my head all the damn time. Well, blog, that's what you're for, giving me a chance to let these things out (and, apparantly, to wake Bee in the middle of the night with the sound of my tapping keys).

So here's why I want to run it, restated in slightly less dramatic terms of my last post:

Survival Horror

The core of a good horror game is the challenge to survive. On this challenge, Roomie, Shawn and Walter thrive. This is why they want to play Horror. Any horror game will do this, and all of the WoD lines touch on this at some level, but none of them underscore it quite like Vampire does. A vampire is a perfectly normal human whose life has been turned upside down by a dreadful curse. How would you survive such a thing? After we discard the common "I'd kill myself!" serious questions arise. How do you keep the sun from burning you alive? How do you get a meal without violating your own personal code (you can chase after animals for about a century, but after that, what? Do you kill criminals? Do you find someone willing to donate their blood and try to be sparing?)? How do you do all this without rousing suspicion from others? And how do you maintain social ties, talking to humans you want to eat and vampires who want to eat you, to keep yourself from going mad? And how do you tame the yammering beast inside your head?

It's a challenge. Vampires have great power, but great weaknesses, forcing a player to struggle to figure out how they will live. It's just as challenging as playing a human with a shotgun hunting down werewolves, except here, the challenge is as much internal as external.

Occult Mystery

The World of Darkness is filled with mysteries, which is one of the reasons I like it so much. Each line has their own things to explore: Mage has its inner sanctums and worlds of the mind, Werewolf has its Shadow and the convoluted nature of spirits, and vampire has its tangled social interactions and long and messed-up histories. All of them have their occult elements, their worlds within worlds filled with strange dreams, dark ruins and unexpected twists, so any of them would work. Someone might ask "Well, then, why not run one of them?" To which I say "The rest of the reasons given in this entry." They might further reply "But... it's vampire," to which I reply "Bias much?"

The one thing I want to add: The Underworld. Ever since I figured out how Wraith really works, I've wanted to touch on the dark, strange and creepy world of the Dead in WoD. I've wanted to give Cass and others the chance to explore a world of broken memories and hurt emotions. You can do that in the other games (though I'm not sure why you'd bother in Werewolf), but Vampires have a special tie to the Dead, and the Book of the Spirits even grants them a new Discipline called the Blood Tenebrous which allows access to the Shadow. Hopefully, the upcoming Book of the Dead will offer more insight into this.

Violence

You can't run a personal horror story without allowing Dave and Roomie to engage in some serious carnage. That's why they love Werewolf, and that's honestly why I think they would love Vampire. In the nWoD, a werewolf and a vampire are closely matched, which suits them, in my opinion. A vampire can regenerate, can fuel his physical prowess with blood, and every last vampire clan has access to their own physical discipline. While it's true that vampires tend to be beautiful and social, I think the combat-fans forget that vampires are monsters first. They have sharp fangs, unnatural hungers, alien eyes and strange complexions. In their disdain of Twilight, they forget Van Helsing and Legacy of Kain. Vampire: the Requiem makes a point of highlighting how strange elders become, such as Unholy, the signature gangrel, whose hands have permanently become bird talons and who constantly hungers after the blood of vampires, no longer able to sate herself on human blood. She is a whispered legend among vampires, a boogey-man to boogey-men. There's no reason players can't be the same, eventually.

Social Intrigue

Vampire is a very social game, the most social of the three core lines, which is why I imagine several players object. Yet I point out that gaming is built on compromises, and the above three should be reason enough to, say, Roomie to allow, say, Cass to have her fun. Like 7th Sea or WotG, much of the action of driven by social interplay, though Vampire's social play tends towards the vicious.

Social interaction has two major sources. First and foremost, like in WotG where every character has his master, every Vampire has his sire, who directs his childe, instructs him, and bestows his allies and enemies on his inheritor. Second, vampire is custom designed to let you play with your food. Like with Changeling, you are driven to interact with people, because they form the basis of your supernatural food-chain. You must either find wicked men to kill, find good people who will let you sip, starve, or lose your humanity as you slaughter the innocent. Given the benefits of the first two, it pays to get to know the wide cast of NPCs a vampire game inevitably brings.

These two interactions coalesce to create 90% of the social intrigue of a game, as the elder's enemies and allies will swirl around you in a dance that has gone on for longer than you have existed, trying to steal your mortal assets from you as you try to steal theirs. But with my addition of the Underworld, I hope to add an interaction with the Dead too, both out of guilt ("You killed me") and redemption ("and you have laid me to rest, so I will no longer haunt this world.")

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That's it. Four solid reasons to play, I think, ones that hit every point on most of my players' lists of wants and needs. Walter wants and needs a survival mystery game. This will provide it. Roomie and Dave need violent survival games. This provides. Cass and Byler need violent, mysterious social-intrigue games, and this is perfect.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Vampire is its flexibility. Between clan and covenant, you can customize your character far more than you could with the other lines. All werewolves are violent, and all mages are good at solving mysteries, but vampires are pretty good at both of the above. The Lancea Sanctum and the Circle of the Crone grant access to Blood Magic. The Ordo Dracul digs deep into the mysteries of the vampiric condition and reward research with power. Invictus and the Carthians grant social benefits. Everyone has a reason to fight.

Don't beleive me? Lemme show you how I think the Clans would break down by player: Roomie: Daeva, Gangrel or Nosferatu (all great warriors). Dave: Gangrel or Nosferatu (monstrous warriors). Walter: Nosferatu or Mekhet (lurking mystery-solvers). Byler: Daeva, Ventrue, Nosferatu (Scary social power-houses). Cass: Ventrue, Daeva (social power-houses). Everyone can bring their own needs to the table, and have those needs met, in a way that I don't think Werewolf or Mage would do (alas, especially for the latter, as I'm quite a fan, but I really think it would be Walter and I rooting for it, and nobody else understanding how to make it work)
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