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[WIR] The Gary Chronicles (Forged in Steel, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. etc)

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  • #76
    Lodin



    Lodin doesn't actually play a very big role in Ashes to Ashes despite being the object of the game's plotline. He spends the vast majority of the time locked up in a barne with Roarke looming over him and planning his horrific Edgar Alan Poe-esque revenge. However, his absence throughout the game also gives a sense of what kind of ruler he is and he's also a figure that casts a big shadow through various supplements.

    Lodin in ATA is someone that his subordinates basically completely go to hell without. Ballard, Balthazar, and Edward Neally are all unable to keep control over the city. Balthazar goes on a mass killing spree (or tries to), Ballard more or less does the Starscream thing "Megatron has gone to the bathroom so *I* am Prince of Chicago"), and Neally does his absolute best to pretend that everything is perfectly alright. It's interesting to note Capone and Jackson haven't been created yet so they don't make any effort to step up.

    This isn't to say ATA portrays Lodin as a GOOD prince so much as an effective Prince. VTM is the kind of game where that distinction is very important (so is any game set in Westeros). He's a tyrant who utterly destroyed his rival Modius and casts a looming shadow over everyone's dealings. He's also picked three really big assholes as his chief lieutenants. Part of what I like about this game is the premise is the player characters saving a scumbag. There's a lot of moral ambiguity with the death of Lodin and the question of whether or not the city would be better off if they left him to be eaten by rats (Humanity Loss) or chopped his head off while he was prone (Humanity Roll). It certainly would worse for the player characters personally if they destroyed Lodin or let him die but the city might benefit.

    The game, however, avoids making this a moral choice. Lodin isn't cartoonishly evil like one of the Sabbat and you might even think that he's the lesser evil than his lieutenants (versus simply less overtly so). Unlike in Dungeons and Dragons, making the choice that will benefit the player characters is clear (Save Lodin) but it's divorced entirely from the ethics of the adventure.

    I've run this game multiple times but, generally, they rescue him simply because of the fact that he's someone in trouble versus thinking about the larger ramifications. Most never even think they should leave Lodin to die and I think that's by design. It relies on the player characters not yet thinking like vampires and how to best profit from this situation or what kind of ruthless actions to take.

    There's a bit at the end of the book where Lodin offers them positions as Hounds, though they're not called that yet and they'd answer to him versus Sheriff (because Balthazar doesn't have a formal position yet). This requires them to be Blood Bound to Lodin, though, and PCs should have the warning bells set off in the back of their heads enough to refuse. I always think it's more interesting if they don't, though, because Lodin showed what he does to loyalty with Roarke but that's the meat of interesting storytelling.

    Lodin doesn't get stats in this book and it's probably for the best because the stats in Chicago by Night make him out to be a juggernaut far beyond what a 100+ year old Ventrue should be. My general take on the subject is Lodin should have been something like Dominate 4, Presence 4, Fortitude 3, Auspex 2, and Potence 2. Formidable but not too formidable.

    Roleplaying Hints: I've always gone to Tom Cruise as a model for roleplaying Lodin with Lestat as a little bit of it but also his other personas. Lodin doesn't look like Tom but I think of a guy who is full of boundless energy (for an Elder) and confidence that may not be entirely justified. It's about 80%, though. He's someone I often make snide remarks and funny jokes that if the ST can pull off, have the player characters be somewhat charmed by (as opposed to Ballard who is like if someone combined Monty Burns with Fat Bastard). He's an arrogant sonofabitch but he's an arrogant sonofabitch who is enjoying the life immortal with his riches, hot mistresses, and power that few Kindred ultimately end up doing.

    Lodin is meant to be the PC's archenemy, at least in most Chicago Chronicles, but he's the kind of character that can also have the PCs running errands for him as well as understanding him. I don't know if Sebastian La Croix was based on Lodin in Bloodlines but he has a lot in common with him in how I've always run the Prince's relationship with the players. The players may hate or love the guy but the Prince leans heavily on someone they may be just as happy to see die.
    Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-24-2019, 02:51 PM.


    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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    • #77
      Roarke



      Roarke is the villain of Ashes to Ashes as much as there is a villain in the story. He's actually not really a problem until the final Chapter and the majority of Kindred the PCs meet are going to be bigger "villains" than him. However, he's a character that I think deserves some commentary before I move on. I feel like Roarke is a more interesting character than the game gives him credit for and less interesting than sections devoted to fleshing out Lodin's ghouls (that occupy a full chapter). There's a neat section in Ashes to Ashes where the players take over pregens of Lodin's ghouls to get an idea of what it is to work for Lodin.

      The problem with that section, though, is that nothing really happens there. You follow Lodin around as he talks about Maureen O'Leary (I presume), buying a book from an auction, and then escorting him on a Hunt before meeting with Lady Anne. It doesn't really give us any great insights into Roarke or his fellow ghouls or even Lodin himself. I think one area that is a mistake by the writers is that they have Roarke completely insane by the end. I think it's more interesting to have Roarke as his classic 1960s rationale self and a guy who has been a ghoul for almost a century.

      Roarke, himself, is a good illustration of what a ghoul can be before they became generic mooks the PCs have watch them over the day as they did in my early campaigns (and before Fatal Attraction). He's a former Police Chief, an important man, but he's lost most of his former connections and has been reduced to being Lodin's butler.

      I think you can have a much more interesting conversation or negotiation with him over Lodin's impending demise. I think you can have the player characters kill Roarke but there's other ways of talking him out of killing Lodin despite his hatred and sense of betrayal. One thing being offering the Embrace to Roarke (he won't accept Nosferatu and would need to be persuaded to become Malkavian). He can also be persuaded with money or being told that he'll be hunted for the rest of his life if he does kill Lodin.

      Throwing this out, if you want to make Roarke a more interesting threat, I think the best thing to do is make him a Kindred instead of a ghoul. I would have him set up to be killed, only to have Al Capone Embrace him and proceed to erase his memory of the action. Roarke is then given the resources and methods to take Lodin down. The fact the Embrace erases Blood Bonds and explains why Roarke is able to turn against his former Regent.

      One thing to also note is the events of the game are actually supposed to represent a secret conflict between Menele and Helena. Apparently, Lodin's kidnapping is actually just a feint in order to allow the transportation of Menele's body. I don't think that was strictly necessary to explain how the events of the story relate to the greater Jyhad, everything is a cover for everything, but that's just on me.
      Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-25-2019, 01:29 AM.


      Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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      • #78
        Ashes to Ashes part 2

        Okay, I've gotten the Lodin and Roarke bits out of the way. I could talk all day about how useful Lodin is as an antagonist and how he's set up as a potential Big Bad for the entirety of the Chicago Chronicles that climaxes in Under a Blood Red Moon (would people find that appropriate to talk about here or not?) but that isn't really relevant to Ashes to Ashes. So I'm going to go through this game chapter by chapter and give my basic opinions on it.

        Chapter One is Baptism by Fire which we've already extensively covered.

        Chapter Two is the actual opening of the adventure and doesn't actually cover itself in glory. The premise is the player characters have been invited to go visit Prince Lodin by Annabelle and present themselves to him. Modius throws a fit over the whole thing because he's being shown up by his old enemy. However, like the scene with Juggler, it's a situation where he throws a huge fit but ultimately caves in.

        The problem with the adventure is that the player characters are assumed to have no idea what they're doing and are supposed to try to figure out where Lodin is in order to present themselves. This is an actual mystery at the start of the adventure with a big focus on in this chapter. It's like Mr. Body being killed in Clue, it's the central premise of the scenario.

        HOWEVER, the game misses a glaring issue at the start of the game that apparently the authors completely missed in playtesting. It is something that clearly the players at the table missed and the Storyteller too because if they were planning this out, they would have hit on this. Allow me to illustrate:

        How the adventure is presumed to go

        Player 1: We need to find Lodin.

        Player 2: How?

        Player 3: I dunno. I guess we have hit various hot spots around Chicago until we run into a vampire that will tell us how to meet with him. [Note: This is what the adventure presumes happens and is built on.]

        How the adventure will probably go

        Player 1: We need to find Lodin.

        Player 2: Okay, I guess one of us should ask Annabelle or Modius where to go.

        Modius might throw a fit over the whole thing but I'm fairly Annabelle has a landline for this sort of things (Kindred like her don't use cellphones). You know, a secret number that goes to the John Wick switchboard that carries all the messages to the Kindred around Chicago without contacting the actual phone companies. Also, to make this a Point A to Point B sort of thing, you could simply have either of them say, "Go to the Succubus Club. You'll find someone who will point you the right direction." You could even have Annabelle state it's more fun for them to scrounge around or embarrass themselves.

        There's some silly moments in this scenario as well like the assumption the Storyteller will want to roleplay out the 39 minute drive to Chicago. It's not that far. However, the game has a couple of trivia questions that the player characters are expected to debate among themselves. I think some downtime between chapters is actually a good thing but the player characters should probably, you know, discuss things and what they're going to do.



        One area I've improved this adventure's ties to Baptism by Fire is the inclusion of Evelyn. It's always good to have a NPC around the PCs if you feel like they haven't yet gotten their dynamic down. In my games, Evelyn is expected to accompany the player characters on the trip and present herself to the Prince but Juggler is forbidden from stepping foot in Chicago. This is a power play and dick move by Lodin. Juggler doesn't want to give her up even for a second but will backdown the same way Modius is like a whipped dog. It also allows Evelyn to be sort of a character the PCs can discuss their various opinions on whatever they know of the Camarilla, Anarchs, or so on. She's a good sounding board character and if anyone knows the Succubus Club is a good place to pick up vampires, it's her.

        That way you can keep the Gary connection strong.

        That is one of my big ATA complaints and that there's almost no connection to Gary after the initial chapter that isn't actually even there. I think Annabelle, Modius, and Juggler are all characters that could and should have been included.
        Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-25-2019, 01:55 AM.


        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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        • #79
          My gaming group never played Ashes to Ashes. We began in early 2nd edition, and by that time ATA was already sold out. I've never seen it at the game stores. We did get first edition Chicago By Night, but nothing that occurred inbetween that and Baptism by Fire.

          Many, many years later, I did get a hold of someone's copy and read it. I wasn't impressed by the adventure, as it assumed way too many things that the PCs would do. This would end up being a problem in a lot of VtM scenarios (and to be honest, a lot of adventures of other RPGs in the '90s).

          I do like the central conceit that by saving Lodin, the PCs would get a major boon, and that Lodin himself would be astounded that vampires would save him simply... to save him.

          But overall, it is fairly forgettable and not necessary. Going straight to Chicago By Night and working things out yourself as to how the PCs meet Lodin would work better in 90% of games.

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          • #80
            Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
            My gaming group never played Ashes to Ashes. We began in early 2nd edition, and by that time ATA was already sold out. I've never seen it at the game stores. We did get first edition Chicago By Night, but nothing that occurred inbetween that and Baptism by Fire.

            Many, many years later, I did get a hold of someone's copy and read it. I wasn't impressed by the adventure, as it assumed way too many things that the PCs would do. This would end up being a problem in a lot of VtM scenarios (and to be honest, a lot of adventures of other RPGs in the '90s).

            I do like the central conceit that by saving Lodin, the PCs would get a major boon, and that Lodin himself would be astounded that vampires would save him simply... to save him.

            But overall, it is fairly forgettable and not necessary. Going straight to Chicago By Night and working things out yourself as to how the PCs meet Lodin would work better in 90% of games.
            One thing that I'll bring up in the next chapter that the best part of the adventure where you get a nice introduction both the Camarilla and Anarchs with a contrast to them. I do think that introducing players to the two causes and their appeal is a major part of Storytelling.


            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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            • #81
              Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
              Ballard more or less does the Starscream thing "Megatron has gone to the bathroom so *I* am Prince of Chicago".
              Well, now I'm imagining Ballard as voiced by Chris Latta. I hope you are happy with yourself.

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              • #82
                Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post

                Well, now I'm imagining Ballard as voiced by Chris Latta. I hope you are happy with yourself.
                It's weird how you look at past posts and go, "It would have made more sense to go 'Megatron has gone to the bathroom so I am leader of the Decepitcons' there."



                But yes, that wouldn't the worst casting.

                I admit, my Ballard has always been played as human Jabba the Hutt with some qualities of the Kingpin.


                Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                • #83
                  Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                  I admit, my Ballard has always been played as human Jabba the Hutt with some qualities of the Kingpin.
                  I go straight to the original source of Sydney Greenstreet.

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                  • #84
                    Ashes to Ashes part 3

                    Let's be honest, Ashes to Ashes isn't a very good module. It's not terrible, though, and it holds up better than the vast majority of Chronicles prior to V20 and V5. I also think it's better than the majority of Succubus Club adventures that were the first Chronicles and I have a fondness for the wackiness of trying to kill Harry Houdini as well as having a living chess game with diablerie as the prize. It's certainly better than Blood Bond which I have very strong opinions of and will happily share if anyone is curious.

                    However, AtA's benefit is not in its actual gameplay but some of the concepts that it brings upas well as the introduction of certain characters that will become iconic. It also does give a good idea of how you might go about introducing concepts like the Camarilla, Anarchs, and how Kindred society exists in them.

                    This chapter starts with the player characters journeying to the Succubus Club because they don't know anywhere else to go that vampires might hang out. There, they meet the two most stereotypical examples of Kindred society. There's Sir who is sucking on the necks of a number of young men but will respond best to an attractive woman sitting down beside him (a little weird note there since the game explicitly states some frat boys will take exception to Sir's perceived gayness).

                    Sir is meant to represent the Camarilla and get the players some valuable information about how the Prince functions. He doesn't know how to get in touch with Lodin but can give them some basic facts like the person to really get in touch with is Edward Neally. He also sends them to The Cave which is a working class bar run by Horace Turnbull. Frankly, as much as I love the Cave and miss its inclusion in V5, it's a weird place as it's almost certainly not Sir's scene.

                    As an interesting fact, the player characters can meet Erich Weiss the Tremere Anarch here doing an impromptu staking show. Erich Weiss not only makes a surprising appearance here but repeats his appearance in The Succubus Club. When I did this adventure, I had the players oo and aww over him before later revealing it was "just" an Obfuscated Evan Klein who had just read a biography about the man. They also get into an argument with Tyrus who shows not all Camarilla vampires are stuffed up losers.

                    The more interesting scenario for me is the Brewery where the player characters are directed to by Gengis. I've always had a bit of an amusement with the fact that he is the most stereotypical Brujah that exists because he's a conformist desperate for the approval of the crowd. It's cool that he eventually mellows out but now he's a guy who gravitates to more powerful personalities (and I'd argue even "leader" Gengis is gravitating to Kevin Jackson to give him something to rebel against).

                    The Anarch meeting actually ties back to Baptism by Fire with Juggler showing up here. We get our first confirmation that Juggler is a sell-out where he's simultaneously trying to get all of the Anarchs (underneath him) as well as trying to reassure everyone that Lodin isn't going to harm them (implying that he's made a deal behind his back). However, Juggler almost immediately loses a lot of respect among the Anarchs because Balthazar shows up and plans to burn the place down with all of the Anarchs within it on Ballard's orders.

                    Damien makes his appearance here as well and serves as the "true" Anarch compared to Juggler. Whereas Juggler makes a complete hash out of things, Damien manages to defend the players and come to their aid while also demonstrating he's a stand-out guy. He's the unofficial guardian of a adolescent boy vampire named Neon. These are all very interesting characters that illustrates a lot of the differences between the various kinds of characters on both sides of the Camarilla/Anarch divide.

                    I like Balthazar's introduction because he's just the right combination of menace as well as buffoon. He's made a half-cocked plan to burn the place down after interrogating them to see if they had something to do with Lodin's disappearance. However, his signal is one that could be done by any Anarch who decides to leave. This can result in him being trapped with the characters who may accidentally get him as a hostage.
                    Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-29-2019, 05:41 AM.


                    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                    • #85
                      Most games I've played in kind of assume that stuff like meeting the Prince is just publicly known and eliminates most of the difficulty described here. There are also huge scenes with many Kindred. This seems to be a result of accommodating large groups of PCs in LARPs and Online games. So you need the big Prince's courts where all the PCs and many NPCs show up in order to run the game.

                      But i like the intimacy and sense of mystery here. Neonates have to navigate their way slowly in a large city, make the right connections, and more or less align themselves with one of the factions. It is much more realistic.

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                      • #86
                        Oh, FYI, this is not going to be my last WIR.

                        I decided to do the Gary Chronicles to be a little easier on me because it's not a huge-huge project compared to CBN 5E and the next one I want to do.

                        Which is Beckett's Jyhad Diary.

                        That will be a big one.



                        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                        • #87
                          Ashes to Ashes part 4

                          The game really begins after the encounter with Balthazar and Tyrus. Honestly, I don't see any reason why the PCs have to choose and the game is diminished by the decision to do so. They should have time enough to do both as it gives them a chance to become more experienced with the power players in the city.

                          If the player characters survive Balthazar and the Wolf Pack, they eventually do get the information necessary to meet with Edward Neally at the Chicago Museum. This is notably the one with the giant T-Rex skeleton that Harry Dresden road throughout Dead Beat. I mention this because it's a shame for it not to be animated at some point during a game or to fall on someone.

                          Edward Neally impersonates the Prince and basically puts the characters through a subtle interrogation in hopes that they have some idea of what has happened to Lodin. He also pretends to be Lodin for most of the story but is just unimpressive enough that the player characters might pick up on the fact that he's just the Prince's secretary.

                          One thing I've always thought of when roleplaying Neally is that he's a natural No. 2# but never actually wanted to be a No. 1#. He would be perfectly content to be Lodin's servant for the rest of his life and that makes him an anomaly among Kindred. I always use Wayland Smithers as his ideal inspiration and wouldn't be surprised if he was Blood Bonded to Lodin before being enslaved to his Sabbat Neonate.

                          My inclination is that Neally is probably the only power player of Chicago by Night who actually wants to see Lodin returned (and probably due to being artificially enslaved). Ballard thinks he's capable of being Prince even though he's far too crass and gross to pull it off in Chicago (since Lodin is a charismatic puppet for the Primogen). Balthazar wants Lodin back-ish but it's mostly because he's not sure what his position will be without him. As we see with Kevin Jackson, Balthazar is easily replaced. So he's actually sucking up to Ballard as the most likely to become Prince after Lodin.

                          The player characters get one of the more scripted things where they're dumped in the middle of a field right before sunrise and have to get on a helicopter provided by Ballard to survive. The problem being that player characters are probably inclined to defy blatant power moves like this. They might have Merge with Earth or their own plans for survival.

                          What follows is an unnecessarily complex plan to get the player characters to sit down with Ballard when they probably would have accepted an invitation. Ballard and Neally do a "good cop, bad cop" routine where they're blamed for Lodin's kidnapping unless they can find out where he is. I actually don't mind this massive bit of railroading because the two of them clearly have no idea how to proceed. They're completely removed from the streets and Balthazar is hated by everyone.

                          Ballard Thoughts

                          I've always felt Horatio Ballard is a character that was set up to be an alternate archenemy from Lodin or an enemy. The problem is, Ballard just doesn't have the charisma or "cool" factor to really work well as the Prince. Lodin is the kind of guy who you'd want to be even if he's not developed here. He's wealthy, powerful, has a hot Kindred mistress, and has that cool "Bond villain" factor that I think only Marcus Vitel, easily the 2nd favorite Princes with the possible exception of La Croix and Luna.

                          Ballard, by contrast, is gross and corrupt so that you can never really admire him. There was also the fact that he's implied to be a child abuser. For all the complaints about the Ventrue in 5th Edition's introductory adventure, there was a lot of subtext there: https://i.imgur.com/oSLP2v7.png

                          I'm really glad Matthew Dawkins pulled back and retconned that away.

                          I would generally put Capone in charge of the city instead of Ballard but that has the "silly" factor and no one can really pull it off I think. Critias is also too powerful to make Prince and not tyrannical enough (at least until V5). So I say that Jackson as the new Prince was a really good plan even though Under a Blood Red Moon said they assumed Ballard would be Prince after Lodin's death.
                          The next part of the adventure has the player characters given unrestricted access to Lodin's haven, which is described in pretty vivid detail. I always found this a bit weird because Lodin's haven isn't like the Succubus Club or the Cave. It's not the sort of place you're going to do much adventuring in (and isn't even where Lodin meets his "demise" in Under a Blood Red Moon.

                          But yes, basically you do get some insight into Lodin's life and I've got to say it's kind of hilarious how many player characters just rob the Prince while they're
                          there. There's even notes in the game that the ST expects the players to steal Lodin's magic necklace because it's enchanted (and will put them under Menele's control).

                          We also get the player characters introduced to Natasha who is kind of interesting because she's blatantly Natasha Romanova. Yes, the Black Widow adapted to Vampire: The Masquerade as a ghoul of Prince Lodin. I kind of find that funny and it reminds me a bit of the fact I adapted Harley Quinn and Bane to one of my games, thinking only die-hard nerds would ever recognize them.

                          There's a somewhat dick move in the game where the player characters might befriend Natasha because, well, she's hot and they may not consider ghouls to be furniture that talks unlike other Kindred. If they do or, God forbid, want to feed on or flirt with the extraordinarily hot woman then Balthazar will turn her against them by saying they helped kidnap Lodin.
                          The player characters get some (red herrings) that the Anarchs might be involved but ultimately even the game basically says just to drop some bombshells on them to go investigate Roarke. This will lead them to the Methuselah that they must recover the body of (and is implied to be Menele before they named him).
                          Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-29-2019, 05:42 AM.


                          Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                          • #88
                            Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                            Most games I've played in kind of assume that stuff like meeting the Prince is just publicly known and eliminates most of the difficulty described here. There are also huge scenes with many Kindred. This seems to be a result of accommodating large groups of PCs in LARPs and Online games. So you need the big Prince's courts where all the PCs and many NPCs show up in order to run the game.

                            But i like the intimacy and sense of mystery here. Neonates have to navigate their way slowly in a large city, make the right connections, and more or less align themselves with one of the factions. It is much more realistic.
                            It is cool but presumably in most games, the PC's sire who has asked for permission to create them knows how to get in touch with the Prince.


                            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                            • #89
                              Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                              Most games I've played in kind of assume that stuff like meeting the Prince is just publicly known and eliminates most of the difficulty described here. There are also huge scenes with many Kindred. This seems to be a result of accommodating large groups of PCs in LARPs and Online games. So you need the big Prince's courts where all the PCs and many NPCs show up in order to run the game.

                              But i like the intimacy and sense of mystery here. Neonates have to navigate their way slowly in a large city, make the right connections, and more or less align themselves with one of the factions. It is much more realistic.
                              The way I see it, the state of affairs where every vampire just "knows" where all the other vampires are is partly a result of the aforementioned LARPs (where everyone is concentrated in one in-universe location as a matter of course), and partly because, over the decade+ of supplements, the World of Darkness just became super crowded and ubiquitous.

                              Not literally, of course. But it just SEEMS crowded due to all the varied and idiosyncratic groups running around, even within one Splat, that you wonder how you throw a stone without hitting a Daughter of Cacophony, Black Spiral Dancer, or shapeshifted dragon Bygone. Spread out over the whole World of Darkness, though, and any given location shouldn't have THAT many vampires in it. Even accounting for vampires in particular collecting themselves in cities as a rule.

                              It further SEEMS like everyone knows everything, because the players and storytellers know everything. It's very easy to forget that people in-universe do not have access to the bookshelf's worth of material about every notable aspect of the World of Darkness. They only know what they've been told or personally discovered. Players and Storytellers can fail to grasp this, simply because they've spent years reading said books. Further, as the line went on, supplement writers ALSO worked from the assumption that previously published material is Old Hat, and built up from them as a foundation for more minutia or detail. It's from here that you get situations where people - even published NPCs - display knowledge of groups or conspiracies they really shouldn't know. Or at least where the character knowing proprietary secrets demands explanation.

                              The World of Darkness is a big collection of conspiracies and shadow cultures, all doing their best to stay secret even from other Night Folk. You should really expect secrets to be more secret.

                              That's why Ashes to Ashes is such a deviation from what would become the formula. Because not even the writers had really "figured out" VtM at that point, it could feel much more like the PCs were stepping into the world of shadows and conspiracies. A true World of Darkness, in the sense that it's like walking around in Central Park in the dead of night. You have no idea who or what might be out there, and are inclined to stay quiet and be careful while you figure it out.

                              Although I suppose this is also a product of shifting priorities. Early VtM was very much concerned with atmosphere, mood, and mystery. It wasn't just that the maps weren't filled in. It's that the writers wanted you to KNOW that everything was obscure, and that the challenge lay in filling it in slowly over time. Whatever plots were being spun by greater characters were deliberately obscured, a fact reflected in the tone. Later VtM became much more about metaplot and character machinations that happened "out in the open", at least in the sense that the readers were aware of it. In the process of giving storytellers and players more official material to work with, the game lost some of its mysticism.

                              The Sabbat weren't a shadowy death cult, gathering in packs to pursue enigmatic goals. They were a sect, much like the Camarilla, with discreet, interesting, and ultimately comprehensible factions. The Tal'Mahe'Ra weren't a secret cabal of ancients, pursuing black and unspeakable ends. They were a bunch of elders and necromancers, with a beef against Vicissitude, which was actually aliens. (And then they became dead, and everyone forgot about the Soul-Eaters). The Inconnu got much the same treatment, with Lair of the Hidden trying to say that the twelve in the castle were the leaders and entirety of the whole sect. Even when later books and V20 walked that bit back, they couldn't resist giving some (potential) answers to the game's then-oldest surviving mystery.

                              This process of de-mystifying was not bad. Giving answers and concrete details is useful for crafting stories and adventures, or for inspiring storytellers and players towards their own ends. But it DID take a bit out of the mystique early VtM had been going for. Really, much of what V5 seems to be trying to do is shake things up so much, it forces the setting back to square one in this regard. If everything is suddenly changed, that theoretically creates new mysteries, right? Not sure if it will actually work - I haven't read V5 myself - but I can sort of see where they're going with this.


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                              • #90
                                Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                                Which is Beckett's Jyhad Diary.
                                I was, and still am, tempted to do that one as a WIR. I might run mine parallel to yours.

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