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[World-Building] How do you do the Anarchs?

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  • #76
    Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
    I would also remind people that Chicago was always supposed to be overpopulated by vampires. From the back-cover blurb for Chicago by Night: "No other city so dangerously on the edge of chaos. No other city so desperately overcrowded." Overpopulation is one of the themes of the book, and using Chicago as the yardstick for how every city in the setting is supposed to work actively goes against how the World of Darkness was portrayed in the core book.
    And yet it DID become the model, and the reason it did while how the core book did not is because Chicago by Night understood that the most important thing to any story is conflict and delivered on it by creating many external ones for PC protagonists to encounter and deal with.

    And external conflicts are the foundation of classical plot construction; the form most people throughout history relate best to (with any inner conflict resolved by using the external conflict as metaphor). Inner conflicts such as the quiet nightly struggle with the Beast are a distinct minority in terms of drawing interest from the population; actual studies say such storytelling appeals to less than 10% of the public… which is why film school professors will always tell students interested in telling such stories to budget appropriately and why such stories are almost invariably arthaus films on shoestring budgets… the audience just isn’t there for spending more and still being able to deliver a return to your investors.

    Basically, the Chicago by Night defaults became the norms because external conflicts are more popular with more people than the lonely interior conflicts of 1e Core.

    And every external conflict is ultimately over things in limited supply; power, time, money, influence, prestige, even food in desperate times. So the best way to get conflict is for demand to exceed supply, hence vampire overpopulation is a very easy way to create conflicts because it puts pressure on everything without resorting to cartoon villainy.

    And pressure is where character is tested and revealed. It’s easy to be a Saint in Paradise and the Beast easy to keep quiet when your belly is full and no one threatens your territory. But what someone holds to even in tough times shows who they really are.

    A city on the brink is where there’s understandable reasons for conflicts between the generations; for why the Prince must be heavy handed and why Anarchs rail against what they feel are unjust decrees. The bad guy isn’t the bad guy just because they want to twirl their mustache… they’re someone who wants more than they have and is willing to go to extremes to get it.

    That’s why I believe overcrowding to the brink results in a much better setting for stories to happen than one where everyone has plenty to go around.

    It’s certainly one of the main ways you’re going to get more than academic Anarchs debating philosophy with the elders at Elysium. If everyone’s fat and happy there’s no need to push that hard against the status quo.

    It’s also clear the direction the setting moved towards overcrowding being more normal deliberately by the time they put The Book of Nod together since a lot of the end times passages speak of such overcrowding by the highest generations. Probably because they realizes the bit above about external conflict being a better seller.

    Hell, V5 leans into overcrowding even more heavily than I do. Every dot of Chasse represents just 500-1000 mortals and pages 324-5 discuss…

    “a single ‘farming’ vampire needs a minimum 30 mortals to feed from to avoid anemia and other debilities in the herd, but the Masquerade is a much bigger problem when dealing with that small herds. A ‘hunting population’ should be (at minimum) two orders of magnitude larger; closer to 3000 mortals per vampire to conceal their depredations in the red noise of conventional murders, cruelties, and disappearances. Thus a coiterie of three to five vampires “should” have, at minimum, a domain of 10,000 people.”

    Yes, that’s a 1:3k minimum safe ratio you’re seeing suggested in official material. V5 is not my preferred edition for a variety of reasons, but I will give them credit for understanding the need to depict a “city of adventure” as the default for a campaign over the staid isolation of 1:100k.

    Sidebar: I looked it up and was wrong, the numbers for Chicago for 1e were 7,000,000 people supporting up to 140 vampires (so 70 excess). I for some reason thought it was 6 mil and 120 (60 excess). Still… those 70 extra came from somewhere which was my point. Easier to hunt the fringes of a major urban area than risk the Lupine filled rural regions unless things are so overcrowded even that’s not an option.

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    • #77
      I think a game really only needs about 20-30 vampires for it to be robust and have enough concepts to provide plenty of hooks for most PCs. And I've certainly been in plenty of real life organizations with about that many people, and the personal or office politics can be severe. There's no problem having more characters, but I don't think it's needed. And based on observations of myself as a PC and other PCs, there's probably only around a dozen NPCs run by the ST that are essentially tracked by the PCs. Everyone else becomes part of the background. After another dozen NPCs who they interact with less frequently but know, they often can't even remember the names of the other NPCs and they simply become "that guy" with the one personality trait they may remember (the Prince's stooge, the Toeador's lover, the angry Brujah, or the girl with the opera gloves.) Players easily forget a lot between game sessions unless the ST reminds them. NPCs quickly become forgotten and nameless.

      I think the desire to view domain NPCs that number 100 or more is more do to OOC considerations tangential to running a good game than a requirement to run a good game.

      1) Many STs love to design NPCs and put them into the game. They like to world build. They come up with backstories, interesting histories, motivations, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. But most of it likely never comes into play. The ST can't run each one enough to truly implant them all into the minds of the players. While players may delve into the backstories and personalities of a few NPCs, the vast majority are relegated to background roles. Players just aren't as interested in the NPCs as the STs are. So most of it is superfluous to the game.

      2) STs have a desire to fill out each of the clans with appropriate concepts and numbers - they want all the clans to have enough members to showcase their diversity, feel, and generation. And then they add more clans to season the setting. So they want a variety of NPCs for each of the main clans (I will use the Camarilla here as an example). Then they may add a few members of the Independent clans or bloodlines. Put in secret Sabbat scouts. Then they realize they don't have enough Anarchs, members of this secret society, subclan, or some other faction so they fill those in. "I have too many artistes and not poseurs for the Toreador they think, so they add more." But there's no reason for that distinction. It's just a legacy of "that's how it's described in the Toreador clanbook so I need someone to fill that". So the numbers balloon. But in truth, most of those just aren't needed. They are there "just in case" something comes up and they can pull out that NPC. But most of those NPCs don't actually need to be in the domain. They could easily be moved outside the domain into a neighboring city, made a part time visitor to the domain, be a new arrival, or someone known to the domain but has to be visited.

      3) Some STs think "politics" means sect conflicts and what side you are on. So they want all the various "sides" represented so they can go to war. But you don't need "sides" to have external conflict. Most politics are personal conflicts. Who gets what and how much. What personal slight needs to be avenged? Who gets to be top dog in this or that area? Who do I need to please to get what I want? You can have plenty of conflicts without ever introducing anyone from a different sect or side. You just need to give individual characters stakes that matter to them that are opposed by another for whatever reason. A Camarilla only city that has no threats to the sect should still have plenty of conflict between vampires.

      (When I use to LARP, one thing STs would often do is put the Primogen in a room to divide up the city map into feeding territory. But it was simply flavor text that meant nothing. It sounded good, but it was just bullshit and everyone knew it. It had no consequences. After the initial novelty wore off, no one cared. But when I became part of the ST staff I was able to convince them to do it differently next time. Instead of it being an exercise in flavor text, I said "OK, the Prince's clan will automatically have +1 to their feeding rolls when they enter the game. That can't change. But now one additional clan also gets a +1 to their feeding challenge. One clan will get a -1. Everyone else gets no penalty and no reward. Let me know what you decide." Just making that change turned a pointless exercise into something ruthless. Not only were the Primogen really politicking with one another, the other characters not in the room became engaged too. Suddenly personal alliances and boons entered into play. Decisions mattered.

      (Later we figured out a way to do something similar with Influence. Draw the map to include the airport in a clan domain/feeding ground, then that got the Primogen a +1 to their Transportation influence and they could assign a -1 to someone else's influence. That little square we drew around the opera house and museum? You got it for High Society. That circle we put around the major local TV studios and newspaper? Media. This other thing got you University or Health and so on. Suddenly drawing the map became important because it wasn't just meaningless lines. Now LARP is a different animal than tabletop, and I wouldn't have a tabletop game play out like that. But it's an example of how conflict can play out even while everyone is on the same side.)

      Now none of the above is "wrong" to do. But it isn't true that it's what is required to have a good game.

      Published domain books will pack NPCs into them. But I think that's less because the setting requires it and more because they don't know how the STs will use the books, so they need to provide sufficient numbers, generations, etc. that can act as sires, mentors, etc. for the PCs and potential hooks for the ST. And they don't know who those PCs may be or if the ST wants to run some plot requiring a Setite, so there's a decent spread everywhere. But a custom chronicle by an ST for his gaming group doesn't need to do that.

      When I design and run a Camarilla chronicle (and I count Anarchs as part of that), I know I will typically want a decent number of Brujah, a fair number of Ventrue and Toreador, and a decent amount of Gangrel. That will serve most vampire concepts and the needs of the setting. But I don't need many Nosferatu, Malkavians, Tremere, or Caitiff unless the specific chronicle idea I have or the needs of the PCs calls for them. I don't need 10 of each. I don't need one of each generation for the clan. Hell, I don't even need all 7 clans though I do like having at least one of them. And I don't need any of the other clans, bloodlines, or sects. I include those only if I know I am going to use them. If for any reason I do end up needing an additional character to build on something the PCs are doing, I can simply place them outside the domain and allow the PCs to arrange things so they can meet someone temporarily.

      When I ran a Chicago chronicle, I exiled various NPCs to much smaller cities like Rockford or Peoria - not close enough to be part of Lodin's domain but not too far that they couldn't be reached. Nor did I worry that a PC might become so enamored by one of these smaller domains that they might want to leave Chicago and play the rest of the game in Peoria. I can safely put any extraneous NPCs there just in case they might be needed - the secret member of the Children of Osiris, one of the Salubri, a Giovanni, whatever. And even "main" Chicago NPCs like the Wolfpack might regularly visit Chicago but they don't live there. You can do similar things in most domains.

      That's one reason instead of doing Boston By Night, they did Dark Colony and spread out the NPCs among various cities. I don't think Dark Colony is that good of a sourcebook for various reasons, but that was something I liked about it - that since Boston, Providence, Hartford, etc. were in close proximity to each other, they were all part of the same setting despite being different domains. An ST could concentrate the PCs in one of those domains building it up (I'd probably pick Boston unless I really wanted to have a much smaller domain be the home base for whatever reason), but whenever he needed something more he could easily pull a new NPC from elsewhere or send the PCs off.

      The 1:100,000 rule for the metro area is arbitrary, but it works. There's no problem changing it (either by explaining why your chronicle is the exception, or ditching it for another rule), but I don't think it has any obvious weakness.

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      • #78
        Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
        Overpopulation is one of the themes of the book, and using Chicago as the yardstick for how every city in the setting is supposed to work actively goes against how the World of Darkness was portrayed in the core book.
        Not only that, but even if it was a precise overpopulation of around 60 vampires it would be a big leap to instead of brush it to a coincidence, related to it going from 1:100k to nearing 1:50k (still considered by many, me included, as a fair ratio nowadays), state that those are the vampires from Indiana and that state is virtually Kindred-free.

        Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post
        But how many characters do you really need for a political campaign?
        It's also interesting to point out that a single character can fill multiple roles, especially if there are multiple parallel structures. The same character may have multiple functions within the city, a role in their clan structure, a position among the harpies, etc.

        About your exercise, maybe I'll do it, but if so I'll avoid US areas and stick to my own country, thank you.

        Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
        And yet it DID become the model, and the reason it did while how the core book did not is because Chicago by Night understood that the most important thing to any story is conflict and delivered on it by creating many external ones for PC protagonists to encounter and deal with.
        No, the reason it became the norm, as stated by many others, is that Revised focused on institutional conflicts and started to want to fill every city with enough vampires to represent each possible faction. So you need each single big-ish city to have at least one member of each clan, preferably one of each bloodline, plus the entire "Camarilla" hierarchy, one or two Archons, a Sabbat pack with a priest, one Giovanni house with one Liaison to the Camarilla + Childe, and enough members of each of the Seven clans to have inner clan politics.

        They basically put aside the establishment of local political structures and conflicts to first guarantee that any given city will have all the Standard Official Conflicts, or SOC™. That was the reason for the inflation and that stays as the sole reason for inflation.

        Keep in mind that even then, the two versions are talking about different things. When the old books talked about 1:100k they talked about comfortable numbers, a ratio that guaranteed a safe Masquerade and that should be the target for Princes, the best scenario for the Camarilla standards, so a greater Kindred ratio means the city is considered crowded to some degree. When V5 talks about 1:3k it is talking about the absolute maximum, beyond which the Masquerade is completely impossible to sustain in the long term. More importantly, it is talking about Domain, not City.

        Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
        And every external conflict is ultimately over things in limited supply
        There is no direct relation between this and overcrowding the city. Plenty of conflicts can still occur without overpopulation, as many things that can be disputed exist in limited supply anyways. Control over institutions, or over the best feeding grounds, knowledge, wealth. Many possible needs and wants exist that do not depend on a greater ratio of vampires to be in a short supply. Conflicts can also exist over other things, they arise from relationships not always from dispute over resources.

        One simple example is the game Bloodlines, that is full of conflicts between many characters, over resources and other things, and at no point the nature of those conflicts need the city to be overcrowded. And guess what? With no indication that the city have any vampire beyond the characters you meet, it has 35 Cainites even if we count the Sabbat and Giovanni present (AFAIK only one of the Giovanni is a vampire), giving LA city about... 1:100k Kindred +3 Kuei-Jin, without need to call upon the rest of LA county.

        Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
        That’s why I believe overcrowding to the brink results in a much better setting for stories to happen than one where everyone has plenty to go around.
        You can keep believing that, that's not the problem. You'll make your games in crowded cities, that's ok. But there is a huge difference between favoring this kind of storytelling and stating that the setting is wrong in establishing another assumption as the default, since no game happens at a default situation to begin with, and worse with people actively telling you they manage to have good games without resorting to the same overcrowding.

        Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
        I looked it up and was wrong, the numbers for Chicago for 1e were 7,000,000 people supporting up to 140 vampires (so 70 excess).
        Still 1:50k, by the way.


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        • #79
          Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post
          Look at the political structures of the Ventrue laid out in the clan's revised clanbook. You have four distinct ranks of Ventrue in any given city; if you assume that there are five vampires at the top rank, each of whom oversee five vampires of the next rank (and that's about the minimum number required at a rank to make sense of the structure) you would end up with 780 Ventrue in the average city.
          I use the Ventrue clan hierarchy in my current chronicle. When the game began, there was one praetor, four other gerousia members, one aedile, four questors, three eirens, and one nonparticipant in the clan hierarchy, for 14 Ventrue total.

          The Revised clanbook doesn't give us specific numbers for how many Ventrue there should be at each rank relative to the others, but it does note that having only one aedile per city is typical, and having more than three aediles is rare in even the largest cities. Yet the book also posits the gerousia as a council/corporate board-like institution, which is only possible with least three members (otherwise they literally can't decide anything by vote, like the clanbook says they do). So we have at least one instance where a Ventrue's rank in the hierarchy isn't linked to how many Ventrue there are at the next-lowest rank.

          This makes sense when we look at what the ranks entail. Eirens are Ventrue who've essentially accomplished nothing their elders found noteworthy. Questors are Ventrue the elders think have shown some promise. Aediles (or more often, the aedile) serves as a spokesman and gopher for the gerousia. The gerousia are the clan "elders", which is something of a misnomer, as most cities probably do not have three+ Ventrue who fit the technical and social definition of elder. Chicago by Night's Lodin is only ~150 years old and he's the eldest member of his clan in the city.

          I don't think the writers intended the Ventrue hierarchy to be an institution like the military where someone at rank X commands Y lower-ranking subordinates. The hierarchy's titles are simply tokens of a Ventrue's standing and respect among the clan. While you need some Kindred at the bottom to have others at the top, you don't need a perfectly pyramidical structure with five times as many questors as aediles.

          If I were to fit the Ventrue of (1e) Chicago by Night into the clan hierarchy, I'd probably organize them thusly:

          • Lodin as praetor, since he's prince and in charge of the city's other Ventrue, who are all his descendants.
          • Ballard and Capone are his chief lieutenants, and Neally is basically seneschal, so they fill in the rest of the gerousia. At ~150, ~100, ~100, and ~50 years dead, there aren't actually any elders on Chicago's gerousia.
          • Sovereign can be an aedile, as he does some pretty valuable work for the clan.
          • Edgar Drummond, Lorraine, Brennon Thornhill, Lawrence Ballard, and Kevin Jackson work as questors, since all of them either have a strong independent power base, a closer relationship with Lodin, or simple seniority.
          • The eirens can be Jacob Schumpter, Joseph Peterson, Pham Hong, and Frank Caughan, who are all largely ignored by Lodin. Ballard actually makes fun of Schumpter for how bad his financial advice is.
          • Tommy Hinds and Bobby Weatherbottom don't participate in the clan structure.

          Far from needing to come up with a long list of extraneous characters, having a pre-made social structure was helpful to me when coming up with NPCs to populate my chronicle. (Like Chris24601, I also prefer to run sandboxy games with large casts of characters.) I considered the city's history, economy, (pop) culture, etc. when generating characters, and the Ventrue hierarchy was basically an additional source of inspiration. A "skeleton" into which I could fit the various Ventrue NPCs I was coming up with. The rank structure helped me flesh out the various clanmates' relationship dynamics and helped the players of Ventrue PCs understand who stood where in the clan.

          Some GMs may prefer a less 'institutionalized' take on the Ventrue clan and that's perfectly fine. I've known posters on this forum who preferred highly institutionalized interpretations of Vampire as a setting, where the Inner Circle or justicars have to officially ratify every prince of a significant city, and I've known other posters who disliked the proliferation of ranks and titles that crept into the game after 1e. But done right, I've found the later-edition political structures can enhance my chronicles and don't have to entail artificial character bloat.


          Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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          • #80
            Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
            And yet it [Chicago by Night] DID become the model
            This is also worth touching on. Chicago by Night was the game's first city sourcebook, and in the eyes of many gamers, the best one. (Definitely mine. I think only Constantinople by Night comes close.) So it set the standard for many of the game's concepts, even ones which were originally supposed to be unique to Chicago, or which were outright contradicted in the core rulebook. For instance...

            • The 1e rulebook says that Ventrue princes are supposed to be uncommon. Even though they're the leadership clan, they generally spurn that specific role. Well, obviously no one remembers that now. Chicago give us a Ventrue prince and Lodin set the standard for all later princes.

            • The city's "sheriff" wasn't meant to be an official position. "Sheriff" was just the nickname used by Balthazar, Lodin's jackbooted thug. But it clicked, and soon every city had its own sheriff, the official Darth Vader to the prince's Emperor Palpatine.

            • The primogen weren't supposed to be a widely-known institution. Most vampires had no clue they existed. They were a secret conspiracy behind the prince that characters needed (IIRC) a B- or higher rating in City Secrets to be aware of. But that also clicked, and soon every city had its own primogen council, and Chicago by Night 5e softly retcons away the primogen being secret.

            • The primogen likewise weren't assumed to be a standard institution in cities. The Chicago primogen is implied to have evolved organically; the city's elders met to chat about issues in Elysium and realized this was a good means of resolving disputes and governing the city from behind Lodin's back. While it's equally plausible that Chicago's primogen could have formed this way in V20's much more 'institutionalized' setting, the way it's written in Chicago 1e makes it sound like the primogen are coming up with a novel idea, rather than just doing what elders in lots of Camarilla cities do.

            • Elysium wasn't a widespread thing either. I might be wrong on this count; I'm not sure if the 1e rulebook mentions Elysium as a concept or not. But Chicago 1e likewise makes it sound as if the city's vampires developed the idea on their own.

            Is all of this necessarily a bad thing, that other cities copied Chicago by Night's ideas? I don't think so. They were good ideas and writers copied them because they worked. When I designed my current chronicle's city, I was happy to have a prince, sheriff, seneschal, primogen, etc. rather than come up with a totally novel political structure. Most GMs (and sourcebook writers) aren't going to want to do that. It's easier to copy an existing model, especially when they still have tons of ways to make their city's sociopolitical setup distinct from Chicago's.

            Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
            That's one reason instead of doing Boston By Night, they did Dark Colony and spread out the NPCs among various cities. I don't think Dark Colony is that good of a sourcebook for various reasons, but that was something I liked about it - that since Boston, Providence, Hartford, etc. were in close proximity to each other, they were all part of the same setting despite being different domains.
            Dark Colony was an interesting sourcebook. Because unlike many of the game's later ones, it didn't try to copy Chicago's political setup. Most (all?) of the princes weren't Ventrue, like the 1e rulebook said was typical. There were no primogen or sheriffs. I don't remember if there was Elysium. There were simply Anarchs, elders, and Kindred on the sides of various factions; coteries were the most important social unit in the setting. The Triad were three nominally Camarilla elders who spent most of their energy conspiring against other Camarilla vampires (and each other), but who also prosecuted war against the Sabbat and used it as pretext for taking over the cities of existing princes. There was lots of elder-elder Camarilla infighting. This was what the early game was about; internal Camarilla conflicts that didn't always involve physical violence, rather than continuous direct warfare between the Camarilla and Sabbat.

            Next to Chicago, I agree that Dark Colony was a fairly weak sourcebook. But it had some cool ideas. (Another neat one was that the methuselahs behind the Triad weren't actually located in New England, which highlighted the global nature of their interests.) I think if Dark Colony had been more popularly received, we would have seen more sourcebooks that attempted more novel political setups, or at least sought to emulate Dark Colony's alongside Chicago's.
            Last edited by False Epiphany; 09-30-2021, 08:54 PM.


            Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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            • #81
              Originally posted by False Epiphany View Post
              Next to Chicago, I agree that Dark Colony was a fairly weak sourcebook. But it had some cool ideas. (Another neat one was that the methuselahs behind the Triad weren't actually located in New England, which highlighted the global nature of their interests.) I think if Dark Colony had been more popularly received, we would have seen more sourcebooks that attempted more novel political setups, or at least sought to emulate Dark Colony's alongside Chicago's.
              Dark Colony had most of the same flaws that subsequent By Night books had.

              1) Lower page count than Chicago By Night so a lot less space to develop the setting.

              2) A large section of the book was taken over by a single railroad introductory "story". Chicago By Night had no such thing just pages of many different plot ideas. Longer "stories" were produced in its companion book, the Succubus Club. So Dark Colony had about 60 pages to develop its setting compared to Chicago having over 160. Those extra hundred pages make a big difference.

              3) More non-vampire stuff is crowding out vampire content. We get more details on Lupines, Mage covens, and the like. If you like that sort of thing, it's fine. Unfortunately it is poor integrated into the setting. We're told what's there, but not how that may affect vampires in the setting except in the broadest terms. It's the kind of filler not found in Chicago.

              4) A rather uninteresting hook. Did anyone really care about the whole British Kindred invading America concept in a replay of the American Revolution? I don't know anyone who felt inspired by that. It's a shame because there's already a strong hook buried there - this sourcebook should be teaching us how the Sabbat and Camarilla fight each other for control of an area.

              5) The book is poorly organized for its presentation. Dark Colony should essentially be organized around the separate major domains of the region, with other domains left open to ST development. We should get an idea of how Quentin King III rules Boston, and Upton Rowlands rules New Haven/Hartford. Roman Pendragon is the Prince of Concord who rules over all New Hampshire. And Warwick is presumably the Prince of Providence. It seems like there should be other petty princes around the region, but we're given nothing except estimated numbers of vampires per state. For some of these cities, one coterie chart would be the entire domain. We could have used those extra hundred pages to briefly develop each domain separately and how their vampires interact with one another as a collective whole as well. Likewise we're given the names of two Sabbat packs and their leaders, but that's it. So as a tool for the ST, it's hampered.

              I do agree it has some cool ideas. I like Warwick's Web, the Gemini League, Boston as a Malkavian center of power, roving Sabbat packs, and certain characters. But if I was ever going to run a Dark Colony chronicle, I think I'd have to decide what elements I wanted to include in it, discard the book as a whole except as an idea mine, and build an entirely new chronicle using those few stones I took for the rubble and brand new ideas of my own. That's a lot of work. Doing that much work is not why I purchase a sourcebook. In contrast, almost everyone can run Chicago By Night out of the box which is why I think it's the most popular By Night book.

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              • #82
                Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                4) A rather uninteresting hook. Did anyone really care about the whole British Kindred invading America concept in a replay of the American Revolution? I don't know anyone who felt inspired by that. It's a shame because there's already a strong hook buried there - this sourcebook should be teaching us how the Sabbat and Camarilla fight each other for control of an area.
                This was one of the worst parts of the book for me. It came off as a parody of New England culture--Midwestern writers knew the region as "where the American Revolution happened", so they seemingly thought, "Hey, let's have a central conflict that parallels the American Revolution!" They tried to force it even further with followers of the Triad being known as "Redcoats" and playing up Anglophobic sentiment among the region's native Kindred, and it just felt completely farcial. It felt like the writers didn't care about any of New England's history and culture after the American Revolution.

                The basic idea of three foreign elders invading Camarilla domains in New England isn't inherently problematic. I'd just remove the forced Anglophobia and stop framing the conflict in terms of British vs. Americans.

                I do agree it has some cool ideas. I like Warwick's Web, the Gemini League, Boston as a Malkavian center of power, roving Sabbat packs, and certain characters.
                I also liked the Web, and have even used it in my own games. I liked the Triad's members. I liked the methuselahs behind the Triad, and I liked them not actually being located in New England, which helped distinguish them from Helena and Menele. I liked Elsa Linden and her tie to Annabelle Triabelle. I liked Upton Rowlands as a snooty WASP Ventrue with ties to Yale. I like the idea of roving Sabbat packs in rural Maine--basically fodder for Stephen King stories in the WoD.

                I don't think any of the NPCs were as good as Chicago's, but they were good enough. It's just that 100 fewer pages of content, as you note, really kneecaps the book's potential.


                Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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                • #83
                  Upped because this is a good thread for the Anarch discussion in the Sabbat book.

                  REPOSTED:

                  Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

                  I think this was the intention of the original writers that the Anarchs would be the default PC faction for some of the reasons you gave. But I don't think that's what actually happened. From my personal experience of the early days (which of course is extremely limited but I have no reason to think it was an exception), players did in fact initially gravitate to Anarch type PCs because the initial presentation of the game encouraged it. Certainly Chicago By Night encouraged PCs to be enemies of Lodin. Most of us were coming from combat heavy RPGs, and it seemed like this is what we were supposed to do.

                  But quite early on, players started defecting away from the Anarch stereotype. They became much more interested in aspects of Vampire that took them away from being adolescent hoodlums angry at the Man. Not everyone wanted their PC to be in the movie The Lost Boys. They had other inspirations. The moment the first player brought the clanbook or players guide they just bought, interest in playing Anarch-type PCs declined.

                  They wanted to roleplay the interesting aspects of their clan's culture. They wanted to explore Elysium and salon culture of the elders. As more of the game setting was introduced in the Clanbooks and Players Guide, the less interested players were to be on the anarch side of things. They found the aspects associated with the Camarilla and the elders much more interesting. Players wanted to explore that. They couldn't explore those aspects of the setting well if they were actually Anarchs because Anarchs were expected to reject all of that.

                  The players who wanted to play Ventrue and Tremere were usually never interested in being Anarchs at all. And once more of the setting was explored, I saw the clans of the Toreador, Malkavians, and Nosferatu drop interest among the Anarchs. I really only saw many, but not all, of the Brujah PC players truly want to play Anarch characters.

                  Yeah, the PCs might still want to overthrow Lodin. But it wasn't so they could free the young and powerless vampires from the tyranny of the elders. It was to put one of the PCs (or a trusted NPC ally) as Prince instead which is a big difference.

                  From what I personally experienced, the Anarch phase of most tabletop games lasted about three months until the ST and PCs learned enough about the setting to move on to things they found much more interesting. Then they rebooted their chronicles.

                  I'm not saying all players did so. I know some Vampire players that were interested in playing only Anarch PCs or at least PCs that were sympathetic to the Anarchs. And the Brujah Anarch archetype was certainly a popular PC choice. But they were a distinct minority in most gaming groups, and had to adjust to most of their gaming group just wasn't interested in going down that route. I'm sure there were plenty of games where the players and STs were mostly interested on the Anarch side of things, but I don't think they were representative.

                  Likewise the LARPs I attended that were Anarch based were less well regarded than those that were Camarilla. Anarch LARPs quickly succumbed to the problem of no one knowing what to do with the setting. Things quickly became repetitive, especially if the Prince was gone and the setting was now a Free State. On the other hand, the Camarilla games have enough variety of aspects to them that more players found things to do.

                  I think one reason some players were really looking forward to LAbN originally was there was the hope that Anarch centric games could be just as interesting to explore as Camarilla games. We just needed to know what was in the secret sauce in the mysterious Anarch Free State! Then we found out it was bland and uninteresting. The main thing that made the Anarchs interesting to play was putting them in contrast to the rest of the vampire culture overseen by the Camarilla. Players might want their PCs to have feet in both worlds to a degree to explore as much of the setting as possible, but I didn't see most choosing to play Anarchs. It's a totally valid choice to do so, and I do want the game to have better toolkits to help STs run those kind of chronicles.
                  The Evolving Nature of the Anarchs, Traditions, and Rebellion

                  I have some theories about the larger societal context regarding the Anarchs in V:TM and Mage: The Ascension's Traditions. My view is the Anarchs were very popular in the early Nineties as a continuation of cyberpunk and its themes from the 80s. Reaganomics and Thatcherism leading to the creation of the counter-culture movement against the unchecked greed as well as rising authoritarianism of the period. However, V:TM's take was a supernatural themed Punk setting that came at the tail end of the cultural movement.

                  However, the Nineties was a time that had a backlash against the Punk and anti-authoritarianism of the Eighties. REALITY BITES and other works of the period emphasized that with the fall of the Soviet Union and triumph of capitalism as well as seemingly democracy, it was the "End of History" and seemingly nothing to worry about. Rebellion against "The Man" seemed adolescent and silly rather than a recognition of horrid inequalities in the system.

                  Hence the shift went from the Camarilla as the bad guys to the Sabbat who were a more overt and militant threat you could shoot in the face.

                  I attribute to this the general whitewashing and slow change of the Technocracy from an embodiment of the evils of capitalism and colonialism to the "one true champions" of the human race against the evil supernaturals. The Technocracy embodying Western hegemonic power and rampant techology was greeted by many aging players as, "Why the hell not?" That, of course, was before the War on Terror, Recession, and other elements that I think may be a major reason why Paradox has chosen to lean into the Anarchs HARD. A lot of the systemic corruption and abuses of power in the world are once more in the public mindset.

                  I'm also of the mind that Anarchs are something that is inherently better for tabletop gaming than LARP. Larp is very much about the pageantry and social combat element of the game and that is something that loud, angry, revolution-based games are not going to be able to do nearly as well. Same for why you don't see many cyberpunk LARPS.
                  Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-15-2021, 04:51 PM.


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

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                  • #84
                    Some bits by Justin Achilli:

                    https://twitter.com/jachilli/status/1449013445647548417

                    https://twitter.com/jachilli/status/1449013931515813891

                    Anarchs are the default sect for V5 and going way back. The Camarilla became the default for V2-V20. Anarchs are especially popular among new and young players.
                    WoD5 also has as thematic element across all games, in that status quo/ world as it is is an "antagonist," and Anarchs are inherently at odds with that. (Werewolves also oppose exploitative status quo, Hunters at odds with status-quo orgs like the SAD, Society of St. Leo, etc.


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

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                    • #85
                      Justin Achilli has some really good insight, and more importantly, a good vision for WoD as whole, whether we personally like it or not it seems that a good organization of the setting's elements is one of his priorities. Which is something I think is always crucial for a multi-setting game world like WoD.

                      Either way, those discussions about the Anarchs, and Camarilla default, and Sabbat, and gamer public and interest changing with the decades was really interesting to read and think about.
                      And I mean, although the V5 Anarch book does show a lot of interesting ways the sect organizes itself in different cities, it is way to small a vision of each, like small snapshots, that don't help in using that as your own as much as it should. It was more of a collage of different nitbits, with very little crunch (and it doesn't need actual mechanics to be so in this case). Like, chapters about the history of the movement, the daily unlife and the positions vampires take or organize themselves in the domain was the most useful of the bunch (for me). The other one that comes into mind is the castle resort of rich Cainites, which is a very different and interesting way of going Anarch; also, the one where the gang style events are barely not Sabbat, where people stab and shoot each other, basking in their immortality. The rest I don't remember well.
                      Anarchs should be an idea circus, with some common denominators but being pretty unique and fun. But without being at the opposite side of the table where the Camarilla is sited, it is just a hollow amorphous sect (and yeah I know, Anarch isn't much a sect as it is a movement and all that). So what defines Anarchs end up being "not being Camarilla" and "not being Sabbat", which is... kinda of useless. Sure anarch and anarchy is kind of no "order", but it is technically no hierarchy, not plain chaos. The work of the writers of WoD should be to pump action and event inside the Anarchs dominion; not just put them as "man I hate that Camarilla over there". Their interaction with Hecata, the Brujah Council in Russia, their "acceptance" of the Ministry (as much as not baring them from existing as their neighbors I imagine), all these are little bits that give interesting things to the Anarch game, but it still lacks the inner drama. It is almost no surprise that almost every game and comic of Vampire is about a fledgling Embraced without permission in a Camarilla territory.


                      Strange... When coincidence seems too convenient, I prefer to call it fate.

                      -Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain d=

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                      • #86
                        I'm gonna re-post what said in the Sabbat topic:

                        So for instance, my Anarch faction that's trying to take control of Glasgow is mostly made from some local gangs and ex-Sabbat packs led by a Child of the Dracon Tzimisce. They are trying to fulfill the Dream by making Glasgow the "Carthage of the North." The way they plan to do this is to apply the Vaulderie to not just every kindred in the city, but also, eventually, when the time is right, apply it to every kine as well. Then there is also a bunch of Ministry influence (who claim to be the original religion of Carthage) and a bunch of conflict with the Camarilla in Edinburgh, which of course is all about the Cult of Mithras.

                        Basically I'm trying to make the sect feel as flavourful and unique as possible, which tbf kind of ends up being a "kinder" Sabbat with the numbers filed off.

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                        • #87
                          In any given city, the Anarchs are one vampire who wants to be Prince but doesn't have the connections or the competence for traditional city politics, and an army of the disaffected and the powerless who he's flim-flammed with promises to cater to their resentments.

                          And the devil of it is: if the Free States ever finally fail, it will be because MacNeil was too afraid of being promoted beyond his competence to be that guy and wield that praxis.

                          I love me some political horror.
                          Last edited by Reasor; 10-15-2021, 09:26 PM.

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                          • #88
                            This spin-off discussion about population, overcrowding and urban areas is really interesting.

                            The italian urban landscape is very different from the American one: there are only a few big cities (in American sense, only Rome, Naples and Milan, with Bologna and Turin coming close, are big cities of over 1 million inhabitants between the main city and neighbouring sprawls), and a huge chunk of the population lives in small-to-medium towns, and commutes daily, as distances aren't huge.

                            So you rarely find huge urban sprawls hwere you get lost, but it's also really rare to have isolated houses in the middle of nowhere. It's more like there's always someone next door.

                            I've always wondered how a post-apocalyptic scenario would play out in Italy, as basically everyone can take a bike and reach the closest city, and you can probably reach a bigger urban center in a hour.

                            Most of these cities and towns date to roman or medieval, so they are extremely packed with interesting story hooks: my Region, Marche, is placed in the central part of the country and has only 1.5 million inhabitants, but it hosts two ports and one airport, 4 universities, two former ducal cities one of whom, Urbino, is a UNESCO Heritage site, and countless smaller cities with centuries' odl feuds and alliances.

                            Were I to apply the classic 1:100.000 ratio, there would be 15 vampires in the whole region, but there is a lot of narrative potential: if we pick Ancona, the regioin capital, we have a 100.000 people city who hosts a Polytechnic University, an important theatre the main regional Hospital, the regional government and regional industrial unions. This definitely screams "High Clans and Camarilla", but Ancona is also the seat of a port and naval shipyard with a strong trade union bent, it has hosted two important revolutionary uprisings (the Red Week of 1914 and a military revolt in 1920) and had a strong masonic presence (it still has it), so you can definitely play Anarchs too, and in Clan terms can range anywhere from Tremere to Brujah.

                            In the Middle Ages it was an ally of the Pope against the Empire and of Byzantium against Venice, and it was besieged by a Staufen-Venetian coalition led by Federico Barbarossa. All the neighbouring cities have allied against its power at least once.

                            It would take a whole court to give justice to all the potential plot hooks and inspirations, and then you would also need rival courts in neighbouring cities.

                            When we did LARP, in my small city of 30.000, we embraced this approach, and went with the "reconstructed overcrowded domain populated by ambitious ancillae and estranged neonates", and one of the main political plots was the fight for hunting grounds and hegemony with the princes of Ancona, Pesaro and Urbino, and Perugia, which eventually drew in the Camarilla.
                            Last edited by Manfr; 10-16-2021, 02:29 AM.

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                            • #89
                              Originally posted by Manfr View Post
                              The italian urban landscape is very different from the American one: there are only a few big cities (in American sense, only Rome, Naples and Milan, with Bologna and Turin coming close, are big cities of over 1 million inhabitants between the main city and neighbouring sprawls), and a huge chunk of the population lives in small-to-medium towns, and commutes daily, as distances aren't huge.
                              By my take, this would mean that most vampire courts are spread through an area instead of the strict interpretation of One City, One Prince.

                              Looking on G-Maps it says that you can go from San Benedetto del Tronto to Lamoli by car in about 2 and a half hours through Autostrada Adriatica (or 3hs through Statale 77 to avoid tolls), please correct if this is wrong. If it isn't, then you can basically traverse the entirety of Marche in a night and still have plenty of time before the sunrise, one way or the other.

                              Under such conditions, an ambitious Prince could try and claim domain over the entire region. This would be a stretched domain, but doable. And since they're so integrated in so many levels, even with princes for each province it is probable that envoys are common as are conflicts between the courts.

                              I don't think you need 150 vampires to play this. As immortals with clearly defined lineages vampires can inherit a lot of historic background. Each character is already full of references by themselves, their lineages and their past acquaintances. Of course, since you attend LARPs you have to consider how many people will show up to actually play, but I do think that a baseline of 30 is enough to build the entire network, 15 is perfectly doable if you want a game that plays on the insular nature of Kindred, 50 is plenty (and a ratio of 1:30k, quite crowded but not by a factor of 10).


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                              • #90
                                Thinking about population starts to get weird for me when you consider that there are more people in London alone than there is in the entirety of Scotland. So Camden moving the Cult of Mithras and the remains of his court to Edinburgh is a massive shift of kindred into that area.

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