Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vampires

It's dark outside. It's dark, and it's cold, and the wind tugs at the trees outside my window. It's night, and I cannot sleep, because I am obsessing on the forbidden.

I am obsessing on Vampires.

You don't talk about Vampire: the Anything with the Newton group, because they have already decided they are dumb: Dumb, pretty, whiney and weak. Why play as something that bemoans its awesome state when you could be ripping shit up as a werewolf or a changeling? But Vampire: the Requiem is different. Vampire: the Requiem is not Twilight. It's not even Vampire: the Masquerade. And I think it'd be perfect for our group.

Speaking to Cass one day, she commented off-hand that while she loved to play "dark" creatures in her online games, she never played one in my games because "we always play as heroes." Further, Walter and Roomie have yearned for a good horror game, a challenge to their skills and smarts. The two desires have led me inexorably back to the World of Darkness, which I must admit is quite solid in its current incarnation.

World of Darkness has many possible roles we could play. We could play as mortals, struggling to understand the madness of the night, or we could rage as howling werewolves. These, I think, would not appeal to Cass as much as Vampire would, giving her a chance to collect my NPCs for real, and an opportunity to revel in her darkside. Byler, too, fits better with vampires than I think he realizes. He always longs to play a man who has transcended and discarded his humanity along with his morals. He tried his hand at werewolf, and found them too boxed in, too samey. Vampire would give him a chance to lord it over mortals (if he was careful) and explore his own power his own way. Finally, Vampire has the "mystery" and "combat" that appeals to Walter and Roomie.

At its core, Vampire is about transgression, and you can boil these down to a few specific examples: my favorites are sex, drugs and violence. The connection between vampires and sex has been belabored in things like Twilight, and is probably the primary source of my players' disaffection. After all, vampires are languid, decadent pussies who drape themselves in silk and half-naked women, right? Sometimes, though, I think they fail to remember the appeal of the latter (my games are legendary for their steaming-hot NPCs, and this would give them a chance to be wicked with them), and moreover, the vampires of the WoD are sexy because it gives them a predatory edge. The girl with the bright red lips and the long, lowered eyelashes has the same effect on a human that an angler fish has on other fish with its gleaming bait: they attract their prey and lull them into a false sense of security. Violence is slightly less obvious, but vampires are monsters, predators, killers. A beast hammers at the back of their mind, demanding blood and death, and their blood provides them with the power to kill kill kill kill kill! As for drugs, the blood itself is that. Vampires are addicted to it. They need it. But moreover, they can make other people addicted to it. It becomes a game of control, possession and corruption.

I think all three of these things will appeal to my players.

Unlife has consequences too, and these will appeal as well: Despair, Madness and secrecy. Despair, again, it what drives some of my players away. Why play a whiney bitch? But I think they fail to see how this despair comes about: there's an inherent conundrum in the Humanity mechanic. On the one hand, you are driven by pragmatism to do "bad" things, and by idealism to refrain from such. Some people assume this means the system moralizes and preaches at you, but I think the point is to pull you in two different directions at once: Would you kill a man who needed to die even if it made you drop in Humanity? Madness follows naturally from despair, as the character descends slowly into inhumanity, but Vampire has even more, with other vampires messing with your mind, and your own dreams haunting you during torpor.

Secrecy, though, is probably what drives most of the fascinating gameplay of Vampire. A vampire must hide. If people knew what he was, they would kill him. So they cloak themselves in paranoia and mystery, lurking in the night, behind a veil of minions, carefully picking off their prey. The only thing tastier to a vampire than a human is another vampire, so vampires aren't even safe among their own. As a result, you have tangled politics, but you have lies, deception, trickery and completely fabricated histories. Vampires live a long time, so just exploring the truth behind an array of elders would take up entire sessions, never mind the other mysteries the WoD has to offer.

The World of Darkness is very flexible nowadays, and I'm going to take advantage of that. One thing that I really would have liked from Werewolf was the spirit world, a surreal place of interesting horrors. But the more I think about it, why can't I have that anyway? Vampires gained some Spirit Manipulating disciplines in the Book of Spirits, so why not feature them in the game? Plus we add some Hallows, some haunted ground where vampires might cross over into the "nightside" of the city. We'll color it in shades of death, though, make it an Underworld filled with the victims of murder, mayhem and, of course, the players themselves. Plus interesting things to buy, trade for, discover. Shades of the Hedge from Changeling, only as designed by Tim Burton.

So that's what I want. A sexy game with savagery, secrecy and madness. A twisted city that crosses Blade with Van Helsing, stretched over the surface of an underworld straight out of the mind of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman, like a cross between the Nightmare before Christmas and Don't Rest Your Head, in a world peopled by luscious ladies and doe-eyed boys with tragic pasts, while the players struggle for power, held back only by their consciences and the curses of the night.

Oh, and I'll have to give out tons of experience, since the standard WoD goes far too slowly for my tastes. But yeah, I think I can do this.
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