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[V20] Making a Black Hand Dominion, could use some Feedback

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  • [V20] Making a Black Hand Dominion, could use some Feedback

    I'm working on a V20 Sabbat game and as part of my preparations I want to cover potential Black Hand characters' world and have notes on the local Watch.
    Even if no one will be playing Hand characters, I still want to do it to enrich the setting and add a mysterious layer to the local Sabbat.

    I'm working on making the Watch Commander first and I'd love some feedback.

    So the concept behind this character is a kind of intelligence analyst who was Embraced during the Cold War, a shadowy, layered character from that world of espionage and secrets.
    He was recruited to the Hand for his analytical mind, experience with clandestine operations and planning ability. He rose through the Hand's ranks not as an assassin or badass remover, but due to his ability at complex strategical planning and coordination, marking him for a watch commander's post.
    Outside of Hand business, this vampire is regarded as True Sabbat, a Cainite who proved himself just enough in past sieges, but is otherwise the epitome of the faceless vampire.
    A face in the crowd in ritae, he appears as a haggard homeless man, shaggy long hair and an old and worn overcoat. While he is part of one of the local covens, he is seen more as an advisor to its priest when he is seen at all.

    This is the vampire who is a silhouette in the corner.
    Unseen eyes tracking you from the shadows. A familiar smile on a stranger's face. The ignored disheveled man pushing a cart of tin cans down the alley, whose eyes are cold, crafty and focused.
    He is the Jigsaw-like voice coming out of the concealed intercom in the abandoned factory's bowels. The mind that weaves threads of shadowy war and destruction in cobwebs upon cobwebs of hidden movements in the night.

    So Numbers & Sheet:
    I tried creating a sheet that reflects all of the above.
    I don't know if I went completely batshit, gave him too much shit or too little. Or am I just over-thinking this?

    What do you guys think?

    Clan: Malkavian antitribu
    Sire: The Grinning Watcher
    Nature: Director
    Demeanor: Chameleon
    Generation: 10th
    Embrace: 1978
    Apparent Age: Late 40s
    Physical: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2
    Social: Charisma 2, Manipulation 4 (Misdirection), Appearance 2
    Mental: Perception 4 (Insightful), Intelligence 4 (Analytical), Wits 4 (Changes in Strategy)
    Talents: Alertness 3, Athletics 2, Awareness 2, Brawl 2, Empathy 3, Intimidation 3, Leadership 2, Streetwise 2, Subterfuge 3
    Skills: Drive 1, Etiquette 2, Firearms 2, Larceny 2, Melee 2, Stealth 3, Survival 1
    Knowledges: Academics 3 (Linguistics), Art of Memory 3, Black Hand Lore 3, Camarilla Lore 2, Computer 2, Expert Knowledge: Military Science 2, Expert Knowledge: Psychology 2, Finance 1, Investigation 4 (Database Research),
    Law 1 (the Code of Milan), Medicine 2, Occult 3, Politics 2, Sabbat Lore 2,
    Science 3 (Mathematics), Technology 1 (Communications)
    Backgrounds: Alternate Identity 2, Black Hand Membership 4, Contacts 2, Domain (Security 3, Size 1), Influence 1, Mentor 4, Resources 2,
    Status (Sabbat) 1
    Disciplines: Auspex 2, Celerity 1, Dementation 3, Obfuscate 3
    Virtues: Conviction 2, Self-Control 4, Courage 3
    Morality: Path of Death and the Soul 6
    Derangement: Obsessive/Compulsive
    Willpower: 7

    Merits/Flaws:
    Language: German (1-pt. Merit)
    Language: Russian (1-pt. Merit)
    Language: Spanish (1-pt. Merit)
    Language: Vietnamese (1-pt. Merit)

  • #2
    Well-done. I like the face in the shadows aspect of it all.

    A few questions:
    • I'm a little superstitious of character concepts that are this fully (and carefully) statted, but lack basic biographical details. Is there a name? From the pronouns, I can tell he is male. If he was a high-level intelligence analyst and expert in logistics, he had an office job. How did he come to look like a "haggard homeless man" at the time of the embrace? Which side was he on in the Cold War? Or, maybe, he worked for a non-aligned country, like India? His date of embrace might line up with being Iranian, and a supporter of the Shah.
    • He has Obsessive/Compulsive. This has a slightly different meaning in VtM than in standard clinical use. What is his obsession? If the answer is, "he is obsessed with being an amazing intelligence officer", as an ST, I would call bs on that. Remember, a flaw is supposed to make un-life harder. Given your description of his behavior, may I suggest a Social Phobia (which may explain why he was an analyst, and not a field agent), or Paranoia (possibly normal functioning behavior for his position).
    • Malkavian antitribu is thematically more chaotic than this concept, which looks like a consummate professional. Have you considered Ventrue antitribu, Assamite antitribu, or Old Clan Tzimisce?
    • More of a narrative flow question: If this guy is super-secretive and stand-offish, good at hiding his tracks, and has no clear motivation for revealing himself to some random licks... how will the players' characters interact with him? It's nice you've created a fun character concept, but how do you plan to introduce him and use him as a story-element? How does he drive the narrative forward?

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    • #3
      I'm a little superstitious of character concepts that are this fully (and carefully) statted, but lack basic biographical details. Is there a name? From the pronouns, I can tell he is male. If he was a high-level intelligence analyst and expert in logistics, he had an office job. How did he come to look like a "haggard homeless man" at the time of the embrace? Which side was he on in the Cold War? Or, maybe, he worked for a non-aligned country, like India? His date of embrace might line up with being Iranian, and a supporter of the Shah.
      I didn't think the details of his background past the broad strokes (more of a "concept art" level background) were salient for our purposes, but these are good questions I will keep in mind as I develop his background.
      I had planned on having him a former CIA analyst (and yes, he has a name), but the India/Iran angle you raised is also interesting.

      He has Obsessive/Compulsive. This has a slightly different meaning in VtM than in standard clinical use. What is his obsession? If the answer is, "he is obsessed with being an amazing intelligence officer", as an ST, I would call bs on that. Remember, a flaw is supposed to make un-life harder. Given your description of his behavior, may I suggest a Social Phobia (which may explain why he was an analyst, and not a field agent), or Paranoia (possibly normal functioning behavior for his position).
      As an OCD sufferer in real life I am intimately familiar with the difference between the VtM Derangement and the actual real life disorder.
      In this instance there is the matter of scope and resolution and the precise details of what intrusive, disturbing thoughts this character experiences and what rituals he follows to temporarily alleviate them are not salient to our examination.

      In my mind, the Hand leadership is aware of his condition but as they are no more experts on this kind of psychology than the people who write VtM books (including those who wrote Caine's Chosen: the Black Hand), I decided they probably have a more pop culture (or at least not an in-depth) perception of what it means and they think it makes him methodical and diligent, without being aware of the precise details.
      They only cared enough to know that his "strain of Malkavian" doesn't interfere with his ability to conduct Hand duties and oversee operations.

      Malkavian antitribu is thematically more chaotic than this concept, which looks like a consummate professional. Have you considered Ventrue antitribu, Assamite antitribu, or Old Clan Tzimisce?
      I don't run Malkavians as gibbering kooks or random fish-smoochers.
      I mean, some of them can be very dysfunctional and certainly Malkavian antitribu tend to have more violent, darker brands of madness.

      However, the Malkavians of the Black Hand aren't the frenzied, mouth-frothing sort.

      And this character is pretty much what they're like.

      The Black Hand has its prejudices but it also has its pragmatism.

      More of a narrative flow question: If this guy is super-secretive and stand-offish, good at hiding his tracks, and has no clear motivation for revealing himself to some random licks... how will the players' characters interact with him? It's nice you've created a fun character concept, but how do you plan to introduce him and use him as a story-element? How does he drive the narrative forward?
      If no one in the group will be a member of the Black Hand then this character isn't likely to be fully explored.
      There is always the possibility of him taking a more visible role during a Siege if the Black Hand is called upon by the Bishops or the like, but that's not the plan at the moment.

      If someone does make a Black Hand character, then this storyteller character will be their watch commander – the superior they report to and receive missions and calls from.

      The reason that preparing him as a character either way, even if the player characters never see much of him or realize what he is, is the same reason I tend to put some thought and preparation into seemingly unimportant, random storyteller characters:

      This kind of preparation is part of what helps create a deep, more believable and more interesting setting.

      On the off-chance that a player character (Hand member or no) looks deeper and catches a glimpse of some of what this character is up to, they get a (prepared) surprise.
      That can even involve the player catching a glimpse of some clandestine meeting, some cult-looking thing, not have all the facts and get drawn into a mystery investigation, at the end of which that player will be thinking "holy shit! If this random bum turns out to be some Black Hand leader, you never know what someone – anyone – might turn out to be!".

      Too many storytellers just have Elysium guarded by a nebulous number of "ghouls". Nameless, faceless, storyless movie extras that no one even knows who they belong or answer to.

      In my games, those ghouls have names, domitors and a favorite gym.

      This doesn't go to say that I (no pun intended) obsessively over-prepare and create intricate, novel-length backstories to every homeless person and stock broker in the setting.
      I understand resolution, I understand focus and preparing for things that players will have interaction with.

      But I do things like write up short descriptions and some details about seemingly random people that characters might meet (or prey upon).
      Most of them aren't secretly Black Hand dominions, but they get names, descriptions, possibly a quirk or personality trait, some broad stroke details that characters might learn through conversation, observation or poking around.

      I don't make thousands of those – even just five or six can be enough.

      Player wants to feed off a random pedestrian near the park? I pull up one of them.
      I describe a crowd of hundred somewhere and a player decides to look closer? I have a couple of "random people" I can refer to.

      The players get the sense that Everybody's Somebody.

      It's to give you the sense that the world around you has depth, that if you look closer here you might see something interesting or that if you open a certain door, I know what's inside, I probably have notes about it.

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