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  • Good starter ideas for Chicago/best version of Chicago?

    I managed to convince some of my colleagues to try V:tM, and there is quite some enthusiasm to start up a proper campaign. As we started in Gary (with a modified version of Rusted Veins), the logical place to go to is Chicago (or perhaps Milwaukee), especially as none of our very international group are from there.

    So, dear more experienced storytellers, what would you start with in that geographical area? And which version of Chicago is the best to play in? First Ed, Second Ed, or the nWoD sourcebook?

  • #2
    I think First Edition had some stronger characters that were eliminated when transitioning to Second edition. First only had the Camarilla 7 Clans but two scouting Sabbat with unidentified clans because it was such an early product. Second includes all the other clans subsequently introduced.

    I like the set up in First better. Lodin is in control, but there's still a lot to be done because he's actually a weak Prince and lots of other characters have sway. Second is an anarchic situation with no Prince, and I think that situation is very limiting. There's one obvious plot to tell as opposed to letting players explore the city and figure things out on their own. Of course, if you start with First you always have the option of going to the Second's scenario (whether you eliminate lodin as part of Under a Blood Red Moon or your own plot) so you have the option of eating your cake and having it too.

    Never read the NWOD version.

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    • #3
      The first edition of Chicago by Night was generally the best, due to the strong character dynamics within the book. I appreciate how Under a Blood Red Moon was designed to shake things up somewhat (and remove the Upton Sinclair characters), but it also manages to weaken some of the main themes at the same time. You do, of course, have slightly archaic character stats, but nothing which would provide a real issue.

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      • #4
        I'd agree with the others above to start with the 1st edition, and I'd also concur with Black Fox's suggestion that over the course of the chronicle (or multiple chronicles) you move towards the 2nd edition. Most of the changes that happen between them can be tweaked to make them work with your own particular campaign & player interests -- though I'd *absolutely* suggest against the coterie being able to use the chaos of the 2nd edition version to mount a major power grab; they're still neonates, the chaos serves as a backdrop.

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        • #5
          Do Chicago. I would suggest you fully read Chicago 1 and 2, the Succubus Club and Under the Blood Red Moon. There is a lot of information in there that you will need to reconcile as to time frames and introductions. Also, though the "adventures" are laid out like running D&D modules they are not really designed to be played that way and some are designed to be interspersed amongst other adventures. SO you really need to read the entirety and kind of chart out how things are going to be introduced and what contingencies you have in place in case the players flip the script or make decisions that you did not anticipate. Just an example, there is an adventure where there is a disease introduced that drives kindred mad then they die. The players are supposed to find the cure, which they do, and good guys would just make sure the vaccine is given out to stop the spread. Well, we as players (when we played years ago) decided to hold the vaccine and see how many of the power players in the city would get knocked off as a means of securing better positions for ourselves. A dangerous play, yes, but very consistent with Vampire. You will need to think through how things can go down and what the ramifications of those actions would be. Also, Chicago 1 was written before the Primogen, Sheriff etc was a real structure within the Camarilla and how cities were organized. That idea was further developed long afterwards and as such there are some inconsistencies that arise through the writing. There are other inconsistencies that pop up like Nicoli being mysterious to the players later in the series of adventures but he is also introduced to the players early on so he may not be mysterious after all or if a player is Tremere of course he would be aware of and likely intimately involved with him.

          I love Chicago, I have played in and run it since it is the most well developed, but you have to really sit and read through all it, develop an outline and go from there.

          One other little niggling thing, you need to read the character descriptions and stat lines for all the NPCs, including what abilities they have. Then you need to make sure they can actually do what they are designed to do. For example, they NPCs with 5 dots in abilities but lack dots in the skills/stats that make the dots effective. That meant I had to go back and redesign all the NPCs to make sure they were actually competent at doing things. Nothing is worse than intending them to do something and looking and seeing their dice pool is 3 or something when it should be 7. I would suggest making some character sheets and redoing all the PCs to make sure they are 1) efficient and 2) easy to understand and use.

          Also, since they only give you the main players in the City I would sit down and design with close to the amount of dots you PCs have (maybe slightly more) a bunch of filler characters. You don't want the PCs to have to go to Ballard for everything or Capne or other higher ups. They need people their own "age" to play with as well so you might want to develop a couple of other young coteries. The other reason for this is that players quickly figure out that they are 4-5 deep and if there are no other young coteries they outnumber every other group in the City. Yes, there are far more NPCs but they are the only real team. So, having a few other 2-3 coteries of 3-5 young NPCs they have some competition for the affection and attention of the grown ups and for prestige.

          Lastly, give thought to technology in the present versus tech in the 1980s when it was written. We have always run the game in modern times so we had to rethink how stuff works and what NPC and PCs would have access to and what they might rely on for things like information. Cell phones being ubiquitous with cameras and the internet means you will have to reimagine the way some things would work. Example, a PC got kidnapped. Other PCs used Find My Friends of their phone to determine where he was, mystery solved. lol. PCs want information on things they just pull out their iPhones, go to google and bam, information. Just be cognizant of those things and you will have a blast.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post
            (and remove the Upton Sinclair characters)
            While it's understandable they'd choose to do that (it's surprising they ever went with it), those do happen to be some of the stronger characters in the setting. It would be easy to retain them in a home chronicle, but adjust the names so that they're not identifiable as such.

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            • #7
              Thanks for the feedback. There is certainly a lot of stuff to be mined, just from real life history. I do somewhat regret setting it semi-contemporarily, combining the slaughterhouses aspect and the underground freight train is in and of itself a perfect Tremere/Nosferatu storm of plots.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Katastrophe View Post
                Also, since they only give you the main players in the City I would sit down and design with close to the amount of dots you PCs have (maybe slightly more) a bunch of filler characters. You don't want the PCs to have to go to Ballard for everything or Capne or other higher ups. They need people their own "age" to play with as well so you might want to develop a couple of other young coteries. The other reason for this is that players quickly figure out that they are 4-5 deep and if there are no other young coteries they outnumber every other group in the City. Yes, there are far more NPCs but they are the only real team. So, having a few other 2-3 coteries of 3-5 young NPCs they have some competition for the affection and attention of the grown ups and for prestige.
                You should maybe also think a little about human NPCs, that's a part that's mostly ignored in the books. While a lot of the stuff that is covered by the book is way above the level of the PCs.

                When it comes to the PCs you should maybe also consider to let them start a little bit more power full (or at least with lower gen) than what is suggested in the rules. There are barely any NPCs with a Gen below 9 in the books, roughly a third of the NPCs have elder generations, and the average Gen of the NPC is roughly 8 (probably even a little lower).

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                • #9
                  Chicago by Night First Edition is in my opinion, the greatest published setting that White Wolf ever made, so I'd go with that one and just modify the setting to fit your modern chronicle needs.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Herbert_West View Post
                    I managed to convince some of my colleagues to try V:tM, and there is quite some enthusiasm to start up a proper campaign. As we started in Gary (with a modified version of Rusted Veins), the logical place to go to is Chicago (or perhaps Milwaukee), especially as none of our very international group are from there.

                    So, dear more experienced storytellers, what would you start with in that geographical area? And which version of Chicago is the best to play in? First Ed, Second Ed, or the nWoD sourcebook?

                    I will second what @Katastrophe said. And maybe meld Chicago 1.0 and 2.0, especially the 2.0 Sabbat. The Sabbat could have infiltrated w/o the chaos of Under a Blood Red Moon. They are much better defined in 2.0, and the Camarilla turncoats are interesting. NWOD Chicago is meh.

                    Also, there are many videos of Chicago tours online for the highlights, and Google Earth/Maps/Streetview help a lot too. Those could help get the flavor of Chicago if you and your players are unfamiliar with the city.

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                    • #11
                      For me Gary and Milwaukee are satellites of Chicago. Gary is where the players start and can get an understanding of the politics. Here the characters learn of the clans and a little about Anarchs from Juggler. After learning how to behave and tire of the small time life, Milwaukee. Milwaukee is where they learn more politics and have a chance to make a splash. Here the characters can decide if Camarilla or Anarchs are the path they want. Milwaukee allows the characters to start gaining power and allies and building their Clan reputations. Gangrel and Toreador character can easily challenge for clan dominance. The other five Clans are more challenging but if Prince Merik falls in your campaign anything is possible. Chicago is where the big boys play. Here is where characters get to test their experience and if they have havens in the other cities, a place to lick their wounds.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks for the responses.

                        So far, I've flipped through the nWoD Chicago book, and Chicago by Night 2nd ed. Both of them failed to fully grab me, to be honest. Hoping the 1st Ed will grab me.

                        As my players are going to be newbies, I thought about focusing the theme on questions of identity. Basically, have the clans act as Maffia families/political machines of sorts, each with it's own area of influence (in the social sense, not the geographical one), appropriate for their stereotype. Everyone Embraced this side of the Atlantic would more or less conform to those stereotypes.

                        One layer below this would be the Primogen council (extended to have one rep per clan), who act much more like their older, European counterparts, or perhaps just less stereotypical versions of their clans, with more ennui. Likely they'd refer to their Clans in the old way, like Learned Clan or Clan of the Moon. I want to give my players a sense of the layers and history inherent in WoD this way.

                        The last level of identity would be the Metuselah's. I'll up Inyanga to full Metuselah level, so there is a triangle of choices there, instead of the binary outcome. Menelaus would be a jaded warrior-poet, and tired of the constant war, as per BJD, while Helena would be more proactive and vengeful, probably due to the death of Priam. Inyanga, meanwhile, will be a sort of "game warden", trying to keep these two from tearing through her domain.


                        As far as the city is concerned, a few things stand out to me.
                        One is the idea of "geography as standing". The Loop seems to tower over Chicago, not unlike some many-towered fortress. Replicating this would be a social stratification. Outlying areas are under the control of young and weak Licks, and the closer you get to the Loop, the older the controlling vampires are, and the better the gains, and the higher the price for said territory.
                        Another cool thread is the underground system below the Loop. Perfect Nosferatu hive.
                        Lastly, the area and history around which I'l build the more supernatural elements are the stockyards. Human or not, enough blood has been spilled there to rouse the Metuselahs. Their decline and replacement with other industries is a plot by some Primogen or another to stop the eventual rise of these ancient horrors. Or if the Sabbat ever come into play, this is where the Tzimisce will lair.



                        As for the actual story, I think I'll just borrow one of the published modules (Ashes to Ashes, Milwaukee by Night, etc), and adapt it. This is probably a failing of mine, but I am more of a reactive storyteller, so I think as long as I can paint the world properly, and give my players a few hooks, I'll be set for adaptive sessions after a more structured introduction.

                        Any feedback, if I may ask for?
                        Last edited by Herbert_West; 03-13-2018, 10:00 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Have been watching and reading some random stuff and a weird thought just crossed my mind.

                          Could Sophia Ayes from 1st ed Chicago by Night be a sort of twist/parody on "Alex" Owens from Flashdance?
                          Might be complete nonsense from my part, but now that it got in i just can't unthink it.

                          Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

                          While it's understandable they'd choose to do that (it's surprising they ever went with it), those do happen to be some of the stronger characters in the setting. It would be easy to retain them in a home chronicle, but adjust the names so that they're not identifiable as such.
                          Too true, in fact i remember someone doing some suggestions along those lines, with Horatio Ballard as example, in another thread.

                          As an aside, now it crosses my mind how good/bad might be to mine characters from other iconic tales or series set in the city for a chronicle...
                          Last edited by Baaldam; 03-27-2018, 01:48 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Oh Boy this come on point.
                            I've jsut finished year-long campaign settled in Chicago, 1931, with a group of new players, which was imspired by both edition plus my own modification and adding to the context.

                            Here the main basic frame. If there is any idea you want to salvage feel free. As i have over 8 pages of scenario and 10 page of characters, i can't puteverything here so i will jsut give you the starter. If anything is of your liking and/or you would like to know more in order to scrap idea, just ask, i will be much obliged to answer

                            There are several main scene in this campaign :
                            1. Lodin is weakened after the great Fire and several skirmish of Sabbat pack since he arisen. Several primogen and other Forces try to weaken him further in order to create a propitious ground to overthrow him and claim the ruling of chicago, one if not the most important Camarilla city in the development in the North America at the moment.
                            In this regard, Lodin have devised a plan to swoop in one move the Sabbat, the Anarch and to shut for good the complain of the primogen. However this plan is risky and will put him at a disadvantage until it is completed.
                            He Managed through one of his closest Friend, Alexei (Tremere Primogen, Nikolai of the second edition put younger in actual age and older in apparent age) to gain control toward one of the Sabbat pack leader. His plan is to create a team of young still powerful neonate and manipulate them in an undercover mission to spy any Sabbat helpers among his own rank while feeding them intels on the sabbat actual operation in order to, at the end of the day, eliminate the whole pack and all the traitors, in a public fashion, with a lot of evidence to display. He need neonates for that, because they won't be suspected of working at that level of complexity, nor anyone will think they work for the prince, as they are to much unimportant. He plan on using boons and favors to force several powerful cainite that are ally to them to create those neonates, leading to neonate of generation 9 or 8, powerful enough then to fight a sabbat pack. He plan on either get rid of them afterwards or take them under his wing depending on their behaviour.
                            If this plan go accordingly, he will be able to clean his ranks while appearing as an efficient defender of Chicago, shutting the complaints for good. However he need to let a cotterie of powerful neonate and a Sabbat pack in the wild until the time is right, leading to a bit of unreliability.
                            2. The Sabbat Pack is lead by Isabella (Lasombra, 6th), that have been trying to carve her own kingdom in the USA since the 19th century. She have been attacking Chicago since it's foundation and tried to tack control of it. The Camarilla managed to prevail everytime for now, but too focused on internal conflict, the Ivory Tower did not managed to get rid off her for good. She is helped by two other 6 or 7th generation that support her claim, but a part from that she is quite alone and received few help from any of the Sabaat or other Packs in her endeavour, not that she really asked for it.
                            Her strategy for the past century was simple : Use several small town in the outskirts of Chicago (White hall for example) by kidnapping a lot of runaways, freak, unwanted, hobos and the sort, that wouldn't be missing from the society, to build an army of Ghouls, new cainite and mindless servant, in order to mass attack chicago. The first four tentative have been disrupted by the Camarilla so far and she is back again for a 5th round, except this time she go right under the nose of the Camarilla and started getting people from Chicago itself, which make the process far quicker as there is a lot more people in Chicago and the disparition are a lot less visible, covered partly by the mafia activities so that no one really wander of too much people disappearing at once.
                            3. Finally, This whole thing is only a facade for the real confrontation : Menele and Helena (renamed Myriam here, and using a puppet name Victoria in her stead, it's complicated), 2 Methusalmah, fighting of revenge for 2 millennia now.
                            Menele, in TOrpor, hidden in the sewer of the city manipulating both the Sabbat and the anarch and some primogen to destabilise Lodin, ally of Myriam (Helena) in prder to supress her ressources and Myriam, posing for the Elyseum keeper right Hand, fighting to help expand Lodin influence and find menele in order to confront him once and for all, manipulating the Mafia, the police and the young Neonate pack in order to advance her agenda.

                            So this is the Basics frame of my campaign as i have said i have a lot more, like, but not limited to : a Sabbat pack with internal conflict, the Anarch led by Modius and manipulated by Menele, Werewolves, The Untouchables, Capones a ghouls of Lodin under his protection and future heir, The jealousy of Ballard toward Capone, a Sabbat Hunter Justicar, a cell of Assamite hunting for several of the protagonist, an Underground Network of Nosferatu (of course), a serial Killer Malkavian, Myriam passing for weak, and a LOOOOT more.

                            Tell me if you are interested as i can provide a lot of material, and so idea, to create your own campaign or simply modify the one present in Edition 1 and 2.
                            Good hunting !

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                            • #15
                              @Piratejm: definitely interested, even if I may not end up using much, I appreciate your input. The players in my (still upcoming, damned academic lifestyle) game are 50/50 on being strait-laced Tremere, and barely-not-Anarch Brujah so far, so that's gonna make an interesting internal dynamic.

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