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  • "Journey through time" campaign

    My players really want to play an epic "journey through time" campaign, where you start in the more-or-less distant past and, through strategic time skips and/or stretches of torpor, work your way to the present. I'm a huge history nerd, and have always wanted to explore this aspect of Vampire, the immortality, but I still feel a bit hesitant, because I feel such a campaign is hard to find a central narrative for. I need an "anchor", a clear concept or conflict that can give such a story a satisfying beginning, middle and climax.

    Now, I know WW explored this with "Giovanni Chronicles" and "Transylvania Chronicles", but those old campaigns are horrendously linear (what we call a "train track" in swedish RPG language) and makes the characters into adventurers that quests around to various locations. I want do to none of that. I'd like to center my campaign around a particular location, so that I can portray the changes the locations, its residents, and its vampire residents, goes through as time passes.

    I'd like any advice you can give me on running this kind of stories, and in particular ideas for cool locations and cool "anchors", central conflicts, rooted in Vampire's lore. Ideally, I don't wanna begin the story too far back in time because I wanna do it in V5, which has no support for elder characters, so the 1700s or so is probably where I'd like to start. This, unfortunately, excludes many interesting possibilities. I've only managed to come up with two ideas thus far, but both have flaws.

    - A "Giovanni Saga", basically a twisted family saga, exploring how generations pass as the Giovanni tries to strongarm themselves into a position in a particular location. I really love this idea, but it comes with the huuuge drawbacks that everyone would have to play Giovanni and that the Giovanni have zero support in V5.

    - A "Cairo Chronicle", where the main conflict would center around the Setite's trying to save their accursed methuselah, The Sleeping Lord, who manipulates the player characters to aid this endeavour througout the centuries. This is also a concept I'd love, Cairo has a really interesting history, but the setting is probably too exotic compared to what my players expected. I might try to pitch it, though.
    Last edited by Natsymir; 05-09-2019, 11:01 AM.

  • #2
    House rule elders so that you can buy the 5th dot of a discipline multiple times picking up lower level powers to fill out your discipline tree. This is one way to simulate elders being more powerful than younger characters start the players at low gen and the lowest BP they can be and have there BP raise as you go through the campaign as well. Add in more amalgam powers to simulate some of the stronger powers with a BP requirement as well if you wish. Just a few thoughts.

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    • #3
      Your Giovanni Chronicle idea doesn't need to be about the Giovanni. Pick a location. Research its history, noting major events, social and economic changes. Have your characters begin in that location as neonates of any clan they like and allow them to fight to establish themselves there and grow their territories through those historical events and changes.

      V5 allows elder characters. The Chicago book features Critias, who's been around for two and a half millennia, and Helena, who's even older. Just follow Redwulfe's advice and you can use the Dark Ages setting with V5 rues and take it through to the present. I'm working on a V5 sourcebook in parallel with a Dark Ages sourcebook for the same city at the moment. It's perfectly feasible

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JezMiller View Post
        Your Giovanni Chronicle idea doesn't need to be about the Giovanni. Pick a location. Research its history, noting major events, social and economic changes. Have your characters begin in that location as neonates of any clan they like and allow them to fight to establish themselves there and grow their territories through those historical events and changes.
        That'd work, sure, but I want a central story to act as a framework. Perhaps an ancient conspiracy, an epic power struggle, or the quest to build something great. The thing that's unique with the Giovanni is that they're a family and a tightly knit clan, so one could easily have a compelling story with family intrigues, internal nepotistic power struggles, having family members as touchstones, watching them grow up, age, die, with perhaps something as grand as the rise and fall of the Giovanni clan as the backdrop.

        Originally posted by JezMiller View Post
        V5 allows elder characters. The Chicago book features Critias, who's been around for two and a half millennia, and Helena, who's even older. Just follow Redwulfe's advice and you can use the Dark Ages setting with V5 rues and take it through to the present. I'm working on a V5 sourcebook in parallel with a Dark Ages sourcebook for the same city at the moment. It's perfectly feasible
        I'd still prefer to keep the PCs on a moderate power level, but V5 luckily makes that easy as XP gain is very slow and Blood Potency drops when you go into torpor. And I get what you're saying, you're partly right, but it depends on what you mean by "elder" - take my Cairo Chronicle suggestion, for example. The Sleeping Lord, should I wish rules for such as creature, is very hard to simulate in V5 because there are no 6+ discipline levels yet. But that's a very minor problem, sure.

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        • #5
          In my own games, to get Elders going, I've done a couple things that seem to work well for me.

          First of all, I have no reservations about V5-ifying previous mechanics, so getting more Discipline levels isn't much of a concern to me since I know the past editions very well and can port things without much reservation about it.

          I've also adjusted Messy Criticals, because that seems to be the big factor as to why stats can't go above 5 in the new edition (as hitting pools of greater than 10 dice when you combine Stat + Stat has an exponential effect on the chance of generating a Messy Critical). So, I simply tie Messy Criticals to Hunger Dice only. If you get a Critical that involves a 10 on a Hunger die and a 10 on a regular Die that is simply a Critical as per normal. If there is a Critical that results from a 10 on two Hunger Dice (with a sub rule stating that Hunger Dice must be paired together in instances where you have 10 on two Hunger and also on a single normal die, you must pair the Hunger ones) you get the proverbial Messy Critical.

          This stops the exponential growth with the larger dice pools, and means you can flux back in all the old details about having Stats that go above 5 (making the cap 10 once again on any given stat). It also generally makes more sense to me, as it keeps the Beast locked to the dice associated with the Beast. It also means that there is a progression in how the Beast can express the more Hungry the character is.

          0 Hunger = The Beast has a very hard time manifesting, essentially only surfacing via Rage and Terror Frenzy.
          1 Hunger = The Beast can now also manifest via the form of a Compulsion through the result of a Beastial Failure.
          2-3 Hunger = The Beast can now additionally manifest in the form of Messy Criticals.
          4-5 Hunger = The Beast is lashing at the surface and can now also manifest via Hunger Frenzy.

          It gives you a nice and steady progression where the effects just keep on stacking up against the character the further they let their Hunger grow.

          This all seems to work really well for me, and didn't take too much hacking of the existing system to get working just right in my opinion.


          -Red
          V20 Content: Age & Potency
          V5 Content: The Masquerade, Tzimisce and Vicissitude, Loresheet: Chicago, Resonance Flavor, Morality System
          Development Manager, Developer at Hunters Entertainment

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          • #6
            This is all great tips guys, and it might be of use, but we're getting sidetracked. I actually didn't ask for help with making elders work. I wanted ideas and tips for a "journey through time"-campaign.

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            • #7
              Very true, just pointing out some options to overcome one of the things you noted as feeling like it was pigeonholing you into certain options and excluding others.

              You noted that the Cairo idea you had might be leaning on the exotic for your group, so did you have a particular region of the world in mind? For instance, you could push a little further back to the European colonization of America letting you play on a larger "the new world" theme and the resulting rise and culmination of the Sect Wars as the supernatural parallel to that. The final anchor, more tangibly, would be the city itself in the perspective you've proposed for your chronicle - the ways in which the city ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes in response to the greater themes of the chronicle and your groups own actions.

              Bonus - that is probably the period of VtM lore that has the largest amount of material available for you to cull from, which gives you no end to the kinds of sideplots you can easily involve your coterie in.


              -Red
              V20 Content: Age & Potency
              V5 Content: The Masquerade, Tzimisce and Vicissitude, Loresheet: Chicago, Resonance Flavor, Morality System
              Development Manager, Developer at Hunters Entertainment

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Natsymir View Post
                That'd work, sure, but I want a central story to act as a framework. Perhaps an ancient conspiracy, an epic power struggle, or the quest to build something great. The thing that's unique with the Giovanni is that they're a family and a tightly knit clan, so one could easily have a compelling story with family intrigues, internal nepotistic power struggles, having family members as touchstones, watching them grow up, age, die, with perhaps something as grand as the rise and fall of the Giovanni clan as the backdrop.
                It doesn't need to be a conspiracy per se. A simple struggle for survival/supremacy against a major foe, or foes would do. ‚ÄčIt depends where you want to set the story and what kind of characters your players come up with. Without that, any suggestions I can make are necessarily vague. But, for example, say that the PCs were all Embraced in Silchester during the massacre that gave birth to the Sabbat following the Convention of Thorns. Hardestadt has learned from his GC experience, and this time he doesn't need Durga Syn's prompting before he thinks, "these whelps must really hate the Sabbat, I wonder how they'd do as archons?". The backstory could be about the characters' centuries-long struggle against their own sires, using the Camarilla as a patron and the flag of convenience to pursue their vendetta.

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                • #9
                  First suggest to make the campaign work is honestly to use the right system; Dark Ages is designed for it; weapons, maneuvers and different skills on the sheet, plus powers designed for the age.

                  Chaotix' Blog has an indepth assessment of the TC experience and how to address it's problematic parts (Railroading/ Train Tracks)
                  http://www.chimericalrealm.com/2016/...hronicles.html

                  From personal experience, the PCs will mess up the planned adventures by going out of expected boundaries and can't be relied on to view NPCs as expected. In general, you will need the ability to go with the flow and possibly tell players you didn't expect their actions and need to have an early end to a session or short break to work out what happens. They will want to play out downtimes rather than having 50-100 year down times.
                  I suggest not only controlling the XP and being a bit "Stingy" but also be stingy with allowing your characters being able to buy up powers, make them wait for certain age milestones to be allowed to buy up a discipline to 4/5. Have that be younger for In Clans instead of Out-of Clans. We've found that characters end up getting filled out better instead of just powerhousing disciplines, and the high level disciplines feel like they mean more since you have to wait for them.

                  Party Cohesion - You need a good reason that the coterie stays together over the aeons in spite of any conflicts between the characters. I personally trust in a combination of in game and out of game - TELL they players that they need to try and make it work, for one. It's like (most) novels, the characters get to thee end in spite of their differences. But having an in-game reason is a good thing too.
                  Depending on the era you start it in - Knightly order or Cult they're all embraced from. Their sires could all be a coterie.

                  On Character Creation - be firm if there are clans/bloodlines that won't work in the story you're planning. If you want to span the Camarilla/Sabbat creation, then having pillar clans of both that are rarely antitribu (Eg Tremere and Lasombra) in the same coterie will make things difficult. Not impossible mind you, it's not unusual for elders to interact cross-sect if they predate the formation of the Camarilla; BUT it makes the stories harder to tell if half the characters want to war on a city and the others need to defend it because of sect loyalties.

                  Thaumaturgy - I'd recommend considering not letting it be available to players. It often gives tools to get out of dilemmas or work around them too easily. Also, versatility is king in a chronicle of ages and Thaum gives it in abundance.

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                  • #10
                    Read something like Theodorims TC reports to see how the transylvania chronicles and Giovanni Chronicles can be opened up and taken off the rails.

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                    • #11
                      I have run a long campaign like this once many years ago. The biggest issue with this sort of game is keeping the players around for the long term. Sure they might love the game, but life happens and people move, get new jobs, start families, etc. Unless you are doing just the shortest of sight seeing tours in each age or meaningful time period then you are looking at months, if not years of real life game time.

                      The game I ran was a Followers of Set game, all the PCs were 5th generation and the setting was around 2,500 BC. While there aren't explicit rules for playing vampires at those times, our group extrapolated the mechanics for starting discipline dots given the time period. Everyone started off with eleven discipline dots if I recall correctly, but other than that they had normal character stats.

                      The first 2,000 years of game play were largely what could be called a low powered abyssal Exalted game. The characters went on adventures, raised armies, battled mages and shifters, built great cities, spent some time as High Priests of various cults, etc. There was no masquerade to worry about and it was just a straight up power fantasy game. The players reveled in their might and got most of their personal drama ideas finished up during this section of play. A few reoccurring antagonists were set up at this point, a couple mummies were the first main ones, though I did end up adding at were-crocodile who could count as a small Godzilla with full charm usage. The interesting thing about the mokole and the mummies is that even if you kill them, they come back. The mummies just don't stay dead and the Mokole just remembers in the next incarnation. The PCs also were instrumental in the happenings that made the Silent Striders tribe flee from Egypt.
                      They eventually went into torpor in a hidden tomb as part of a prophecy handed down by Set.

                      The next section of play took place during the Roman empire and had the PCs try their hand at empire building as well as learning to be a bit more subtle because those unkillable antagonists kept meddling with their plans. In fact it was at this point that the coterie started to get a bit of a two sided reputation. On one hand they were true clan Elders, even ones named in a prophecy by Set, but the enemies they generated along the way often brought a great deal of collateral damage to the other supernaturals the PCs interacted with. The PCs helped propagate the Punic Wars and even had a hand in a few critical events that occurred during the rather lengthy time period that was the Roman Empire. I should warn you that the Players may or may not find it as amusing as you do to send them on a influencing quest to the Council of Nicaea to put some darker notions in the heads of the people deciding on codifying the relatively new faith. Apparently that much true faith in one spot is a bit.... much to deal with. Once again the PCs went into a ritualized torpor to do the time skip and that ended this section.

                      To keep the game from retreading what we had played before, I ended up having the coterie skip the Dark Ages setting and wake up during the Renaissance. Thus the characters had to concern themselves with applications of technology and science. An interesting role playing aspect of this is that if you have players who know a bit about ancient technology and drop them into the Renaissance, they basically can pass off lost technologies and science as their own inventions or just as something to barter. This section of the game could almost be considered a form of role play mixed with city builder/trading simulator. Rather than fighting enemies, the coterie had to focus on building the world back up to the standards that they had left it at when they entered torpor. Once again they had to be even more subtle about how they did things because they had made more enemies every step of the way. In fact having the coterie arrive in your city was considered a bad omen, if not an actual harbinger of occasionally near apocalyptic destruction. The incident with the corruption of a mage cult in the city of Pompei during the previous section of the game had not helped the coteries reputation.

                      We decided to time skip to the Old West rather than mess with the Victorian age setting. The coterie spent time setting up temples in the new world and looking into some of the native cultures. To be honest this was more about getting back to basics with boots on the ground level game play than anything else. This was essentially a couple decades worth of character R&R with them running around having fun and causing mayhem. Eventually they ran afoul of a cabal of their surviving enemies which ended up trapping them in a deep cave system which they collapsed and then warded against anything vampiric getting out. Time lost meaning in those caves, the coterie survived on cave fish blood and the occasional snake they could call down to them. Thus we time skip to the modern nights which had the cave system rediscovered by a mining company. They hoped to find a new ore deposit, they got a vampiric version of the movie "The Descent" instead. The drilling and blasting had destroyed the last of the warding and so the coterie got to adjust to the current time period.

                      I ran the game through the modern nights and the players got to try out their characters as major CEOs and influence peddlers of the modern age. Monsanto was a very profitable company to take over, both for revenue and for spreading corruption, especially once Pentex got involved in the game. This section was especially difficult for the coterie because at no other time in history for them have they had to hide so much of their power or just not be able to benefit from it. Most if not all the active vampires had no knowledge of their pre-history achievements or great deeds. At most all that was known about the coterie was that they were incredibly old, very powerful, but also cursed. Every where they went, misfortune and death followed. Stack that on top of the fact that the masquerade was in full swing and large swathes of the population had cell phone cameras and internet access made being an elder rather constricting. We played this section up to and through Gehenna, which more or less turned the entire world into a hellscape. The world ended bloody and screaming, as it always would.

                      For the final section of the game, I wanted to bring things full circle. So the tone of this post-Gehenna section was essentially Vampire Hunter D inspired. The coterie was the ruling council of a large city state. The vampires were more or less back in the pre-history game style of abyssal exalted, with themselves setup as eternal rulers of the 3rd City. With their extensive backgrounds in knowledge, history, science, etc. they were essentially walking libraries. Very few things in the world with power to challenge them had survived Gehenna and the current crops of vampires were all some form of thin-blood. The sixth age was that of darkness and blood.


                      Sorry for the longer post but such a campaign which covers around 5,000+ years of history can't really be easily paraphrased. So to get back to the OPs question, the best way I found to keep a game functional is to chop it up into sections, with each section having a different tone, this ensures that the characters are always center stage, but are at the same time always forced to adapt or die. Eventually the character sheets will have all the dots filled up, most disciplines will be known and most of the deeper secrets of the setting will have been revealed to the characters. Rather than fight this, you just have to plan on it happening and keep changing the surroundings.

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                      • #12
                        Thoth that's an awesome story! Thank you for sharing! But it also highlights some of the challenges I'm dealing with here. I don't want this "Journey through time"-campaign of mine to continue forever, or be that epic in scale. I'm aiming for a smaller scope, with beginnings in the 18th century or thereabouts, and need to find a suitable framework for that.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Natsymir View Post
                          Thoth that's an awesome story! Thank you for sharing! But it also highlights some of the challenges I'm dealing with here. I don't want this "Journey through time"-campaign of mine to continue forever, or be that epic in scale. I'm aiming for a smaller scope, with beginnings in the 18th century or thereabouts, and need to find a suitable framework for that.
                          With a time line of only about three centuries that is much more manageable. Just create a time line of the major events you want the PCs to hit during play and once that is all mapped out, see if they clump up in any way. If so then you make each cluster of events its own storyline. Since it sounds like you want a complete story arc rather than an ever evolving story, then you might want to build a frame work where you figure out a really good ending and then reverse engineer the story of how the characters get to that end point. The event clusters usually will have their own themes just due to what was happening in history at that time, so you don't need to worry about creating new themes.

                          The tone will be based on the types of characters you have to work with. A war band of Brujah and Gangrel tromping around will have a very different gaming experience than a mixed coterie of Toreadors & Daughters of Cacophony touring as a music group. OF course you can have some fun dropping the specialist characters into the completely wrong scenario to see how they handle it, I would suggest that you don't do that until the middle of the game so that the PCs have started to diversify their stats a bit, just so they have a bit of flexibility in play rather than being completely locked down.

                          Of course all of this comes with the caveat that regardless how much you as an ST map everything out, research all the history, and come up with ingenious schemes to give the game a unique tone....... always remember that the Players can and will take all that hard work and curb stomp it to death and potentially set if on fire. They won't do this intentionally mind you, it is just the fact that Players will turn left when your storyline and planning assumed they would turn right. So keeping some of the planning in the bullet point stage will leave things a bit vague, it also means you are able to adjust the story to unforeseen player choices or even just bad dice rolls.

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