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

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  • #91
    Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post

    I was, and still am, tempted to do that one as a WIR. I might run mine parallel to yours.
    We could do a combination and I could put your articles on the first page with mine as contrasting perspectives.

    Anyway, this one will finish up Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, and then a brief overview of Rusted Veins.


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

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    • #92
      Given my work schedule, and other issues, I will not be able to start until probably August.

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      • #93
        Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
        Given my work schedule, and other issues, I will not be able to start until probably August.
        Probably a good time for me too.



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

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        • #94
          Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
          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.
          I agree that most PCs should already know who the Prince is and how to reach them. Not only because their Sire should know, but more importantly because they had to be presented to the Prince in order to graduate from fledgling to neonate.

          However, that doesn't mean they should know the officers of the court, the primogen, or other power players. Those can still be presented as some sort of mystery. In Chicago By Night, even knowing that there are primogen is something of a secret, and knowing the identity of one of them even more so.

          Because of my experience with Chicago By Night, I've always felt the primogen are unofficial, but very real. They're whoever can put pressure on the Prince AND can be accepted by the other primogen as one of their own.

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          • #95
            Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
            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.
            Because I've run Ballard as Sydney Greenstreet from The Maltese Falcon, I've had him be less obese and physically disgusting. And with that Greenstreet menacing charm. It works well at giving him that cool factor. I've also really played up his life as a mortal but swapping him for the real world's Philip Danforth Armour. So he founded Armour & Company (which now became Ballard & Company in my chronicle) which later spun off Dial Soap as well. He founded the Ballard Institute of Technology (Armour Institute of Technology) which later became the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). And of course Ballard Square (Armour Square) in Chicago is named after him. And Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is basically about his company. By making it very clear that he was one of THE robber barons, it gives him a heft - someone the PCs would fear even before he became a vampire.

            There was certainly a subtext of sexual child abuse, but it would be very easy to just chalk it up to him feeding on the children like vampires normally do and thus eliminate the ick factor (and prompt the PCs to move immediately to destroy him as child abuse is something that sets almost everyone off). That allows him to be acceptable as a long term enemy.

            The main difference between Ballard and Lodin is that Ballard is obstensibly more powerful than Lodin, but Ballard still physically fears Lodin. Ballard is ruthless, but he knows Lodin is even more so. I'd probably run things so Ballard doesn't want to be Prince of Chicago because he sees more advantage in moving up the clan hierarchy. I see him as the guy who is on the Ventrue Directorate for North America and who represents North America on the global board. Lodin, while influential in Kindred society, is simply too concerned about Chicago and working with Conclaves, than dealing with clan business. He delegates that to Ballard. Ballard would love to be one of the Primogen, but that would only be to put the screws on Lodin and finally get out from under his thumb.

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            • #96
              Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

              I agree that most PCs should already know who the Prince is and how to reach them. Not only because their Sire should know, but more importantly because they had to be presented to the Prince in order to graduate from fledgling to neonate.

              However, that doesn't mean they should know the officers of the court, the primogen, or other power players. Those can still be presented as some sort of mystery. In Chicago By Night, even knowing that there are primogen is something of a secret, and knowing the identity of one of them even more so.

              Because of my experience with Chicago By Night, I've always felt the primogen are unofficial, but very real. They're whoever can put pressure on the Prince AND can be accepted by the other primogen as one of their own.
              In my games, I have the Prince have a location where he most hold a weekly court. The Prince doesn't do his business every night as that would intervening with scheming but most do weekly meetings at either an Elysium or an actual location like a bank, town hall, or a mansion that is not their haven. For the opposite reason of Lodin not showing up for a year and a half in this game. It's to project their power over the city and remind people they exist. Others operate through their Heralds and Seneschals or deal solely with the Primogen while remaining almost completely removed from Kindred politics but these tend to be less stable or much-much older.

              In my games, part of the reason why Lady Anne became Prince of Lodin was simply because she was doing much of the grind of Prince anyway.

              Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

              Because I've run Ballard as Sydney Greenstreet from The Maltese Falcon, I've had him be less obese and physically disgusting. And with that Greenstreet menacing charm. It works well at giving him that cool factor. I've also really played up his life as a mortal but swapping him for the real world's Philip Danforth Armour. So he founded Armour & Company (which now became Ballard & Company in my chronicle) which later spun off Dial Soap as well. He founded the Ballard Institute of Technology (Armour Institute of Technology) which later became the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). And of course Ballard Square (Armour Square) in Chicago is named after him. And Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is basically about his company. By making it very clear that he was one of THE robber barons, it gives him a heft - someone the PCs would fear even before he became a vampire.

              There was certainly a subtext of sexual child abuse, but it would be very easy to just chalk it up to him feeding on the children like vampires normally do and thus eliminate the ick factor (and prompt the PCs to move immediately to destroy him as child abuse is something that sets almost everyone off). That allows him to be acceptable as a long term enemy.

              The main difference between Ballard and Lodin is that Ballard is ostensibly more powerful than Lodin, but Ballard still physically fears Lodin. Ballard is ruthless, but he knows Lodin is even more so. I'd probably run things so Ballard doesn't want to be Prince of Chicago because he sees more advantage in moving up the clan hierarchy. I see him as the guy who is on the Ventrue Directorate for North America and who represents North America on the global board. Lodin, while influential in Kindred society, is simply too concerned about Chicago and working with Conclaves, than dealing with clan business. He delegates that to Ballard. Ballard would love to be one of the Primogen, but that would only be to put the screws on Lodin and finally get out from under his thumb.
              You're absolutely right as the moment abusing children becomes involved, it's pretty much time for the player characters to take out a hit on Ballard and there's nothing he can really say to get out of that. I felt they went significantly overboard on the "horrible monster" elements and dialing them back as they did in V5 works wonders. As you say, Sydney Greenstreet or Vincent D'Onofrio work very well.

              Surprisingly, your version of Ballard is someone that bears a lot of similarity to my version. My version of Ballard is Resources 6 or Resources 7 at time with control, indirectly or directly over billions of dollars. This includes two Ballards (technically a third via marriage) being billionaires but almost the entire family under his thumb via Dominate or Blood Bond or old fashioned intimidation.

              My version of Ballard, though, is surprisingly someone who is kicked around among the Ventrue rather than a figure of great respect, though. Basically, Lodin and several other Camarilla higher ups in the Clan use him as an enormous piggy bank for their own schemes and he's constantly sending money up as well as out but rarely gets any respect for it. Indeed, Ballard more or less paid for the Siege of New York in my games and didn't even get a thank you despite it almost ruining him.

              In simple terms, I've always run Ballard as extraordinarily capable but fantastically fearful of the Final Death. The same fear that terrified him as a mortal is still one that dominates him and he's the kind to fold under physical violence to beings far weaker than himself. It's partially why Sovereign doesn't respect him in the slightest (and the fact Ballard is, in my games, casually but [in his mind] "good naturedly" anti-Semitic). It's also why Capone and he are rivals despite the fact Ballard has significantly more resources and intelligence.

              He's essentially, for all his power, middle-management as far as the Ventrue are concerned. I briefly considered doing a game where Ballard potentially gets over this by being groomed by the Giovanni who can show him the afterlife (Ballard finding out about the Hierarchy would be akin to finding religion for him as the idea "it's just like on Earth, assholes prosper" would remove a good chunk of his terror) while also stoking his inner savage. I also considered having Jackson "reward" him with Capone's old mobs and be surprised when it backfires as Ballard discovers violence and intimidation suit him in a way he never really got around to in legitimate business.

              I admit, a part of me does love the V5 "Enron, Madoff, and the Housing Crisis wiped out his personal fortune to a few million dollars. Now he has to rebuild it before anyone notices he can barely afford his chauffeur."
              Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-29-2019, 07:52 PM.


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

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              • #97
                Ashes to Ashes part 5

                The adventure's best bits are actually some of its least cinematic and I wish more games followed this course. Basically, the game takes a detour for the player characters having to deal with mortals and the more mundane elements of vampire life. The human world might as well not exist for most V:TM games and that's a shame.

                The rest of the adventure consists of the following events:

                1. The players get into an altercation with Balthazar and Damien.
                2. This leads them to Roarke's old headquarters
                3. They find out the police have already ransacked the place and gotten an "old bloodless body" from it.
                4. The player characters are expected to get the body from the police.
                5. The player characters encounter a nosy reporter.
                6. The player characters get dominated into moving Menele's body and meet a Hunter.
                7. Events conspire to get them to go to Roarke's Satanic cult in the middle of nowhere.
                8. They either rescue Lodin or they don't.

                This sounds like a lot but it's not and more like a series of scenes but the fact that it gives premises rather than scenes actually works to its advantage. The player characters are left to explore a location (Roarkes), they're told to get something from the police station and not how, and then told Lodin is in the cult's clutches. This kind of open Storytelling is probably the best way to do a module.

                The Balthazar vs. Damien moment is a fairly good one because the player characters have the opportunity to let the latter stake the Sheriff then lead them to Roarke. Honestly, I'm not sure the player characters or Damien would let him live in this context as "well, he'll just forgive and forget this later" isn't something I'd go with. My inclination is that Balthazar's people are probably just behind him and will be there to remove the stake so the player characters don't have to worry about the sun getting him, mortals, or other matters that would result in them being blamed for the murder of the Sheriff. Mind you, he's just a hired goon in this adventure and not the potential recurring menace that I've always used him as.

                The rest of the adventure involves dealing with mortal authorities and figuring out how to get the body of "Lodin" out of the police station without alerting authorities. You can't just go murder everyone in there because it's not that kind of game but there's ample opportunities to get inside. I'm reminded a good deal of Deus Ex: Human Revolution where there's a fairly similar challenge to break into a police station. The Nosferatu could use Obfuscate, the Ventrue Dominate, Brujah or Toreador Presence, but you could just as easily come up with clever plans of other types. The game even describes a few ridiculous scenes like pretending to be CDC officials.

                Let the players go wild here is the recommendation and I approve.

                It's not Lodin, of course, but actually Menele (unnamed here) guarded by a Native American vampire hunter who is as clueless as to the forces maneuvering him as anyone else. The player characters can easily kill him but he's not all that interested in a fight. Which puts him above the majority of vampire hunters. Leaving him alive could be a bad decision, though, as he's listed as being in contact with William Shepard. The player characters could very easily end up described to an FBI agent because of their good deeds.

                This leads to a somewhat railroady section of the adventure as Menele needs to Dominate all of the player characters before doing what he needs with them (i.e. getting them to transport his body to a safe haven away from his old compromised one). The player characters have an elaborate number of ways that are meant to dominate them by forcing them to touch the body when you could just as easily say, "Menele dominates them because he's a 4th generation one and touch being necessary is just us being needlessly pendantic." I don't mind Dominating the player characters a little bit in games, just to let them feel the boot of Kindred society a bit but it's something that should be used sparringly and never to humiliate them.

                This is an almost completely pointless part of the adventure, though, and I've actually left out the Menele subplot multiple times even though he's the hidden master behind Roarke and its supposedly all his plan to move his body. There's even a magic jar of Methuselah blood the player characters can drink that will instantly Blood Bond them to Menele. Not cool game.

                The player characters also meet a World Weekly News-esque reporter named Scotty who harasses them for information. I actually like this guy because he's the perfect mortal that could very entertaining and a possible contact but could easily go South if the player characters find them annoying. Either way, I like this section dealing with (mostly) human threats and requiring the player characters to not go murder-happy.

                The Climax

                All Roads lead to Rome and in this case, eventually the player characters should have gotten enough information to know about the Satanic Cult controlled by Roarke in the countryside.This leads to a B-movie climax inspired by Children of the Corn where they have to deal with a monstrous ghouled Ram and then go find Lodin about to be eaten by a bunch of ghouled rats while Roarke is cackling away in the background, having degenerated into a Rasputin-looking figure.

                I mentioned it earlier but I feel like the climax isn't bad for a bit of fun horror movie craziness but it feels pretty damn strange compared to the rest of the game. It also feels a bit weak tea that your final "boss" here is a single depraved ghoul and his army of cheesy animals. You'd think he'd at least have a bunch of drugged up cultists at you.

                Whenever I remove Menele from the story, I have Roarke turn out to be a Tzimisce of the 13th Generation who managed to leave the Sabbat through sheer
                hatred. In this version, he survived the attack on his life and was picked up by some agents of the Black Hand who tortured him for information then Embraced him as a footsoldier as a "reward." His cultists are all blood bound to him and this can get VERY NASTY very quickly.

                However, I also make it clear that Roarke isn't actually that interested in avenging himself on Lodin any further as he's come to appreciate living forever and is happy to basically leave if things look like they'll result in his Final Death. Roarke has humiliated, tortured, and abused Lodin more than any of Lodin's enemies have in a century.

                Lodin will never feel safe again.

                If Roarke is still an independent ghoul, I think he should have a partner potentially (Son is a good pick) and be willing to trade Lodin for the Embrace.
                Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-29-2019, 08:26 PM.


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

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                • #98
                  Balthazar



                  I've always been fond of Sheriff and he's one of the arguably most influential characters in V:TM. Perhaps only as influential as Prince Lodin himself. I mean, Bloodlines' NPCs are more popular and the Signature characters probably more individually famous but these two are the guys who inspired entire archetypes in the game.

                  Basically, if you're going to have the Prince then you need to have them have a chief goon. The Dragon as the site TVtropes.org defines it. It's Darth Vader, Oddjob, Witch King, and the other circumstances where the mastermind has a chief minion. Player characters shouldn't go to kill the King and having someone like Balthazar and his own goons present helps keep the Prince having a sense of mystique while letting the players have an enemy they can have some victories over.

                  I appreciate that they also went with such a perfect embodiment of things that embody authority that your typical punk will hate. A stereotypical Southern hick Sheriff manages to convey things like police brutality, racism, and corruption without having to go the whole Boss Hogg with say a Nazi, serial killer like Son, or Klansman. It's also exaggerated and weird enough in Chicago that you can have a lot of fun with it. Thomas Ewell is certainly an evil piece of crap, but he's not 100% pure monster either as while he killed Neon's family--he felt enough remorse from his frenzy to Embrace the kid.

                  One of the things that I always prefer to remember when using Sheriff in my games is the fact that Balthazar is someone who is pretending be a corrupt hick but is not actually a corrupt hick. It's a fact he sometimes forgets because he is a big bully who enjoys lording over weaker Kindred but my take on the man was that he was a very intelligent as well as calculating Elder. It's just that he's aware that he's a small fish in a big pond and his best opportunities to keep his position are to play the kissass while also lording over the Anarchs.

                  If you ever caught Balthazar in a serious conversation, he'd fully explain his persona is to make sure that the negative attention of the Anarchs and the city's troublemakers are focused on him rather than Lodin. Even though the Primogen supports Lodin so the Rabble is focused on him not them. He's willing to do it, though, because he's paid very well and he's fully of the mind the Anarch movement is not better.

                  But you are what you do and Balthazar has been playing the role of Police Brutality's embodiment for the better part of a century. As such, the line between his affected persona and the reality are starting to blur. The big difference is when he IS invited to Elysium he acts more like Ashley from Gone with the Wind (which is how he remembers the South--even if it's not true) than J.W. Pepper or Bufford T. Justice.

                  And if you ever catch him alone with his men, I state that he drops the Southern accent and has a somewhat stereotypical Canadian one.

                  One of the elements of V5 Chicago by Night is that I actually think there's a decent chance of humanizing Sheriff if you're so inclined. He's a racist piece of crap but not quite as reactionary as many Kindred believed. He also really did think the Anarchs were the worst thing to happen to the Camarilla and his conversation was (at least after awhile) sincere. But he got thrown under the bus on a whim (or so he thinks).
                  Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-29-2019, 08:49 PM.


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

                  Comment


                  • #99
                    Ashes to Ashes: Epilogue

                    There's a finale to the game where you play Roarke in happier times with Natasha and the other ghouls in Lodin's service. It's called "Advanced Storytelling" but bluntly I think it's very strange and not particularly interesting as Roarke is not really an AMAZING character. It also doesn't reflect the crazy Satanic priest he degenerates to at the end of the game.

                    Really, the only thing it reveals is that the Black Queen (Helena) and White King (Menele) were at it behind the scenes the entire time -- which we already knew and wasn't really all that interesting to begin with.

                    How I handled it

                    If Lodin Lives

                    The game presumes that Lodin will be rescued and restored to his (rightful?) place as ruler of Chicago. He will owe the PCs a Life Boon and will almost immediately attempt to turn it around on them by offering them positions as personal enforcers (what we'd call Hounds today) w/ the small caveat of needing to be Blood Bound.

                    Hopefully, the PCs will see the writing on the wall that Lodin had no loyalty to Roarke despite his decades of service and turn this "honor" down. In my games, I also made it so Lodin immediately corrected Edward Neally that he's NOT a person who owes them a Life Boon because he's permitting them to live (Modius' domain is something that he contests if the PC's sires are from Chicago) and their freedom of movement as well as acceptance in Chicago means he only owes them a "moderate" boon.

                    This is true even if the PCs are professed Anarchs as Lodin will completely misread the situation or perhaps read it well. He assumes that any PC that tells the Prince of Chicago they're an Anarch after saving his life is simply letting them know they're spies for sale. He's a little nonplussed by their bravado but let's it go. It will take thwarting his aims a few times to realize they're sincere.

                    I had a lot of fun showing Lodin's gratitude is questionable to begin with. It's also less than pleased if they stole anything from his haven (but also conveinant as he can just say forgiving that prevents him from owing them anything more). Lodin will also pardon them for any assault on Balthazar (and gleefully twist in the knife because Lodin hates his own henchman almost as much as he needs him).

                    If the PCs have been on their best behavior, Lodin will give them apartments on the Lakeside in a rather swanky location paid up for the year as well as fifty thousand dollars in cash each. It's chickenfeed to him but he hopes that they will accept these gifts because, again, he hates being in debt to anyone.

                    If Lodin Dies

                    Ballard is ecstatic and immediately pardons the PCs for anything they may have done in their discovery of Lodin's Final Death. He'll probably regret this later but essentially declares himself Prince in that moment. He was perfectly willing to blame them for Lodin's disappearance when it wasn't confirmed one way or the other over his death but them bringing him proof is the key to his Princeship. Barring the PCs upfront saying they murdered Prince Lodin and possibly not even then, Ballard couldn't care less about his sire's demise. Indeed, unless they specifically point out Roarke is the party responsible--Ballard will probably assume they finished Lodin off themselves. They're just giving a lame but plausible(ish) excuse.

                    It makes more sense than "disgruntled ghoul."

                    Edward Neally immediately starts weeping like they killed Christ and its tears of blood as well as outraged vows of revenge. Then, dramatically, Edward starts looking confused and angry as the Blood Bond fades before their eyes. A predatory, angry, and very cunning man emerges that immediately plans on challenging Ballard for the Princedom. Ballard will demand Neally Blood Bond himself to the New Prince while Edward starts throwing out wild accusations. Edward is a master of slander and knows how to go on the offensive.

                    Neither of them is inclined to reward the PCs and it's best if they just get out.

                    Balathazar (or Damien and some Anarchs) will attempt to ambush the PCs after this and plug them full of holes. He WON'T kill them, though but leave them heavily injured as well as near torpor in the middle of a city park just before dawn. The PCs will be able to survive but will probably end up killing some people in their Hunger before getting the strength to reach a nearby shack. It will now be a free for all over who will be Prince with Capone and Jackson joining the fray. Maybe Juggler and Modius too with Anarchs believing they killed the Prince.
                    Last edited by CTPhipps; 06-30-2019, 07:24 PM.


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

                    Comment


                    • One thing that is nice about the adventure, is that the PCs can vastly affect the setting by their choice here (whether Lodin survives or not). What is terrible about the adventure is that this is an introductory adventure, and an introductory adventure should not vastly change the setting overnight as it ruins the the product you presumably just bought (the first edition Chicago By Night book). It's hard enough to run the setting as is if you are a first time player/storyteller. Having to completely throw it out the window and wing it to make sweeping changes based on the competition to be Prince is just too much. It makes it much harder to play out the varied relationships between the NPCs in the setting if the most pressing matter is settling the Praxis seizure contest between multiple NPCs.

                      Possibly destroying Lodin is something best suited to happen further down the line once the ST has had a chance to familiarize themselves with the city's status quo, and the PCs have done some exploring and figured out how they're playing it. THEN offer them the chance to destroy Lodin or not.

                      This is the main reason I've never liked the adventure and preferred something else in introducing the PCs to the setting.

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                        One thing that is nice about the adventure, is that the PCs can vastly affect the setting by their choice here (whether Lodin survives or not). What is terrible about the adventure is that this is an introductory adventure, and an introductory adventure should not vastly change the setting overnight as it ruins the the product you presumably just bought (the first edition Chicago By Night book). It's hard enough to run the setting as is if you are a first time player/storyteller. Having to completely throw it out the window and wing it to make sweeping changes based on the competition to be Prince is just too much. It makes it much harder to play out the varied relationships between the NPCs in the setting if the most pressing matter is settling the Praxis seizure contest between multiple NPCs.

                        Possibly destroying Lodin is something best suited to happen further down the line once the ST has had a chance to familiarize themselves with the city's status quo, and the PCs have done some exploring and figured out how they're playing it. THEN offer them the chance to destroy Lodin or not.

                        This is the main reason I've never liked the adventure and preferred something else in introducing the PCs to the setting.
                        I definitely agree but think that "not" saving Lodin is presumed to be an afterthought in this game--probably the same, "This is still D&D-like" attitude that went into Diablerie: Awakening. The developers would assume the PCs would want to under most circumstances and even, "Lodin dies is probably because you fail to save him, not because you want to save him." After all, they have no reason NOT to personally unless they're Anarchs or have already started to hate him via their brood or are sick of...okay bad example.

                        This is a plot hook that will show up in multiple games with MILWAUKEE BY NIGHT having more or less the exact same premise, except the sourcebook is taken from AFTER the Prince dies despite the Prince being probably one of the most interesting characters there. The idea of a suicidal prince is a surprisingly robust one for a chronicle as it could justify a lot of fascinating storytelling.

                        In any case, I don't LIKE-LIKE Ashes to Ashes but I think its worth stealing from. The big problem being its best bits show up in Chicago by NIght anyway.


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

                        Comment


                        • Damien



                          I feel like talking about this character before I get into Dust to Dust. Not so much because of the importance of the character in this module but also how he goes through one of the more interesting character arcs in V:TM history. He's a relatively minor character in the grand scheme of things but has enough appearances that you can chart how his story goes. It's also fairly believable as character development.

                          Damien starts as a "heroic" Anarch that contrasts strongly with Juggler. He's looking after a seven-year-old vampire who could never survive on his own, he's the product of an emergency Embrace, and he's a guy who is actually all about punching up against the Camarilla. Best of all, he's a powerful but not overwhelming ally. We also later find out he's with a Golcondan-achieving vampire named Johann that is serving as his Jimminy Crickett. Finally, we throw in Baby Chorus to give Damien that extra "kewl" flavor of being in a Goth Rock band.

                          Under a Blood Red Moon royally screws with Damien and wrecks his relatively content life. Johann is killed despite being an incredibly humane vampire: either by Lupines or the Sabbat depending on how you want to handle the death of a Kindred saint. Neon is sadistically killed by Son in one of the most horrible events of V:TM and Damien never finds out the truth. Also, his good friend Garwood Marshall dies with Baby Chorus breaking up.

                          What follows is essentially twenty years of Damien just wandering aimlessly around Chicago with no friends (or few friends) and nothing to occupy his mind. Kevin Jackson approaches him with his deal and offers him the chance to get his band back together plus a purpose. It requires him to turn against the Anarch cause but he has the option of sparing those ones he's actually close to (or thinks he does because Gengis also has the same "List"). Damien assumes his closest and friendliest will understand.

                          And he's horribly wrong.

                          He's the Judas Anarch now, which is fascinating because it means that he's done the exact same thing Balthazar did.

                          I think Damien is a character that longer-lived NPCs would benefit from having Memorium scenes with if you want to make him a major part of your campaign. You can establish a friendship with the character in the past and use that to provide context for his present day status as the Great Betrayer. Best of all, he hasn't changed in personality. He just felt like he did what he had to in order to secure a place for himself and his people--throwing others under the bus.


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

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                          • The one major fault that Chicago By Night had was incredibly weird stats for its characters. Many simply did not make sense. Damien is one of those I remember whose stats caused me to scratch my head. He had WAY too many Disciplines. I understood that he was of potent blood, and therefore had the potential to be an extremely powerful vampire should he survive to be elder. But as a neonate, he just had way too many.

                            Lots of NPCs in CbN were like that. They were either under powered or over powered for their age in years. It is a case where many STs should just create their own NPC stats on the fly while keeping true to the character concept.

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                            • Blood Bond (or "This module really frustrates me")



                              Someone asked me about my earlier comment that Blood Bond was my least favorite V:TM product and I corrected them: that's Eternal Hearts (HISS - I spoke the name) followed by World of Darkness: Gypsies. Blood Bond is certainly up there and is one of the few products I've never been able to make a really good game out of. It's irritating because I like quite a bit of it but the character drift and railroading mean I've never quite "fixed" it.

                              The premise is that Edward Neally was once best friends with Jefferson Foster, who he eventually Embraced with Lodin's permission. Jefferson and Neally have a falling out, so to speak, over a woman named Emily. Jefferson falls legitimately in love with her and Neally just wants to abuse as well as possess her before it ends with Jefferson joining the Sabbat to escape Neally blood bonding him. Edward Neally then Blood Bound Emily, made her his ghoul, and kept her as a sex slave for decades.

                              Then Jefferson comes back for revenge only to be being buried alive with a stake through his heart in concrete. THEN the PCs free Jefferson, then Jefferson blood bonds NEALLY, and then forces Neally to commit all manner of atrocities so Jefferson can force Neally to join the Sabbat to break the Blood Bond that will unwittingly put Neally under Jefferson's power. Oh and give Jefferson back Emily. At some point in this adventure, one of the PCs will fall helplessly in love with Emily, who will leave with Jefferson because she loves him more.

                              The PCs cannot save Neally, can't fight Jefferson (he has too many Sabbat allies), or affect Emily in any way shape or form. It is quite possibly one of the most railroaded adventures of all time and I'm including To Grandmother's House We Go in Nights of Prophecy. A lot of the plot is weirdly unnecessary too since if Jefferson has Neally Blood Bound (which he does by putting his blood in Emily so he's drinking Jefferson's blood through her--which, no, just no) then he doesn't need to do this elaborate song and dance.

                              I don't normally use the Gary Stu/Mary Sue issue but the game really does seem more interested in telling Jefferson's story than it is the PCs. Jefferson orders a bunch of people slaughtered horribly but the game assumes the PCs will side with him or at least not care that he's a butcher. Emily is not so much a character as the ball being tossed between Edward and Jefferson too. That's not even getting into the fact Edward's dark and sordid background was pretty extreme for a 1st edition character.

                              I recall when I first played it, I did completely thwart the game and broke it by being a Brujah who had a grenade. He tossed it into the masses of the Sabbat pack and utterly blew Jefferson's plan to pieces. The ST was kind of furious because I was PLAYING IT WRONG.

                              How I'd do it

                              When I did adapt the adventure I pretty much kept a lot of the premise and changed pretty much everyone's motivations and events. I haven't been able to run it but I've been toying with it and poking it for years. What frustrated me about Blood bond is there's good stuff here but how to do it was hard to get at even by my standards.

                              The final version I've come up with that I still haven't done yet but might for V5 is this:

                              * Edward Neally had a period of his unlife where he was a real scumbag and exalted in the new power of his position for about a decade. He turned his best friend and then ghouled the woman he'd lost to him before abusing them both. This eventually led to Jefferson fleeing while Emily came to resent him despite the Blood Bond. Edward broke down after and effectively let her be a free ghoul that he's let run around Chicago on his salary for decades (but she's refused the Embrace). It's during this time that Lodin Blood Bound Neally and he doesn't know if his new, milder personality is a result of Lodin's control over him or a natural result of his Humanity reasserting.

                              * Edward actually seeks out the PC's help when he believes he's losing his sanity because he's had multiple frenzies and some are in public. He feels like he's losing his mind and is wracked with horrific guilt over what he's done. It's like a werewolf movie (*rimshot*) where he is happy to let them chain him up in a basement if it helps. However, he needs to keep on doing business at the start and figure out if some Kindred is behind this and screwing with his head.

                              I.e. a much-much more sympathetic portrayal of Neally.

                              * Jefferson loses a lot of his Villain Sue traits and is here for revenge but his plan isn't quite as awesomely diabolic as before. Jefferson has been poisoning Neally's blood and favorite vessels while using a Sabbat artifact of some kind (maybe infernalist) that is undermining his Self-Control. His pack supports Jefferson in this because they're going after a Camarilla Ancilla in a major city and it's sadistic. They DON'T support how much time this is taking and will violently object to the fact that Jefferson is doing this over a human woman.

                              It's also ticking off Phillipe Rigaud who is Bishop of Chicago and doing a lot of behind the scenes works that this is endangering.

                              * Emily is actually not just a trophy that the player characters will automatically fall in love with, albeit she is a very seductive woman from the 1940s in a Jennifer Connoly Dark City or Rocketeer sort of way. The Blood Bond to Neally means she "loves" him but doesn't mean she loves him romantically and she's never forgiven him for driving Jefferson away. Except, Jefferson is not the man she remembers but a Ventrue Antitribu who will not take it well when she reveals she's got no interest in becoming a vampire.

                              * The climax isn't really so railroaded as the PCs can save Neally or Emily but probably not both. They can also maybe turn the pack against Jefferson because while doing this all to get revenge is fine but for love of a HUMAN is disgusting to them.

                              Now onto DUST TO DUST
                              Last edited by CTPhipps; 07-01-2019, 04:55 AM.


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

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                              • Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                                The one major fault that Chicago By Night had was incredibly weird stats for its characters. Many simply did not make sense. Damien is one of those I remember whose stats caused me to scratch my head. He had WAY too many Disciplines. I understood that he was of potent blood, and therefore had the potential to be an extremely powerful vampire should he survive to be elder. But as a neonate, he just had way too many.

                                Lots of NPCs in CbN were like that. They were either under powered or over powered for their age in years. It is a case where many STs should just create their own NPC stats on the fly while keeping true to the character concept.
                                Yeah, pretty much.

                                I think I adjusted Damien's stats to being Disciplines: Potence 4, Celerity 4, and Presence 3

                                Which is an incredibly potent character for kicking ass, taking names, and making people love him but perfectly within the Brujah verve.


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

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