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"Best" Dark Ages Campaign Line?

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  • "Best" Dark Ages Campaign Line?

    I know several have appeared over the years for different editions. Under the Black Cross. Transylvania. The Giovanni Chronicles. And various other spinoffs, both long and short.
    What is YOUR opinion on the best of the lot?
    Do any do an exceptional job of combining intrigues and combat?
    Are some more of a 'railroad' than the others?
    I have a group of Players with very mixed tastes, and would like to lay out something appealing to most, if not all.
    Thanks!

  • #2
    Transylvania chronicles is the worst. It is extremely railroady and frequently requires PCs to just stand around and watch as DMPCs do stuff. Giovanni Chronicles has a sudden plot twist in book 4, where you stop playing as PCs and start playing as PCs' ghouls. I've never met anyone who liked that. Also the way it does timeskips is very clunky.

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    • #3
      Hmmm perhaps I should have asked "Which one sucks the least?"

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      • #4
        They're all pretty railroad-y and tend to not give the PCs a chance to really shine. Personally, I like the venture chronicle because it's short and give a good sampling of the Dark Ages, Victorian, and the modern nights settings, but I'm biased because they were the first real chronicle I ever played in. ‚ÄčIf you're wanting to run any of the prewritten chronicles I strongly suggest adding in some more personalized scenes for the PCs and allowing them to go their own way even when it deviates from the written plot.

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        • #5
          I really have yet to find a white wolf "module" that doesn't suck, some of the "by night" books are great as a setting but most of the plots they come with are a bit flat.

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          • #6
            Giovanni Chronicles I is pretty good as a group embrace story, and a starting campaign. I would suggest to go to home-written campaign after the book is finished, though. II is sub par. III is bad. And IV... well, I think it has been stated the problem with that one.

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            • #7
              On the matter of Transylvania Chronicles, it has ups and downs, with certain acts being the most railroady i have seen in any WW book since Samuel Haight's debut in Valkenburg Foundation, and others being deliciously loose and open-ended for the PCs to plunge or break into in whichever way they prefer. A very good and extensive rundown of the whole can be found here. Even if one has no intent of STing Transylvania Chronicles it can be pretty useful in exploring some vices and pittfalls STs can get themselves into just as easily as writers if they don't plan or think very well of what they want and what their players require.


              Giovanni Chronicles is more coherent in narrative than Transylvania Chronicles, as others have commented, but is more 3 stories than 1:

              - Last Supper, the first chapter is essentially stand-alone and can indeed work pretty well as springboard for a chronicle during the Camarilla and Sabbat formative years - as an aside, the chapter of Transylvania Chronicles set in the Convention of Thorns has a group of young archons and "adopted childer" of the Founders of the Camarilla that sound suspiciously like callbacks/expies for Last Supper PCs. It's indeed a pretty engrossing tale but playing it i honestly felt like the PCs are more shoehorned witnesses than true participants, their role in the drama somewhat tacked on and of quite debatable utility.

              - Blood & Fire and the Sun Has Set, the 2nd and 3rd chapter, are about a group of ancilla (later elders) hunting a lost esoteric MacGuffin of utmost importance to Cappadocius (though never mentioned for even a second in the first book) for the Founders of the Camarilla sake (because they are trustworthy enough to deal with such a delicate matter - even if they actually fought in the Conspiracy side and ran away, yeah, really), how they must compete with Ambrogino & his minions and Marianna Giovanni, who are almost always two steps ahead of them and there's mysterious setite Count Jocalo around to run interference around because, well, setites, they are evil and chaotic or whatever.

              - Nuova Mallatia, the 4th and final chapter, is set in contemporary times (from the 30's to the turn of the millenium to be specific) and closes the narrative - but unfortunately does so by utterly robbing the PCs of any actual closure by changing the viewpoint to the rise of the Milliner branch of the Giovanni, with the PC as family people, then ghouls and finally kindred, dealing with stuff from mafia conflicts to doing work for Ambrogino and the crapstorm that comes from having to survive him, Marianna and other stuff. It could be a quite decent tale as an independent standalone thing, but placed where it is, Nuova Mallatia can only be summed up as the ultimate cop-out and epic act of writer betrayal to a fanbase. That the "sidequest" sequence returning to victorian times and where the previous chapter left off is also centered in a group of ghouls, for no decent reason whatsoever, only works as more of a slap in the face. Overall the book screams "we are affraid to write an adventure for elder PCs, so let's power down everyone with new viewpoint and characters, it's not like we are the original writers anyway", making it very frustrating indeed though not badly written per se.


              That said, the Giovanni Chronicles have a clear core direction and frame, that makes tweaking the 4 books in one whole and well-defined saga much simpler than with Transylvania Chronicles, that seems to never really decide something to be about. I have tinkered with Last Supper myself and the changes though cosmetic have been pretty helpful so far. The aforementioned MacGuffin from books 2 & 3, mostly a prize always a little out of reach, has become actually helpful in the game, both in giving the PCs a venue to have more direct influence in the outcome of the conflict and adding some actual sharp teeth to the Giovanni's coup, making everything that much more dramatic. It will be pretty useful in the future too, in that now the opening scene of book two becomes the return of past complications the group actually played through, instead of gratuitous random exposition of a new plot.

              Also, i have used and abused the hell out of the Dark Ages series and the Cappadocian clanbook to expand things, painting Cappadocius, his dreams of apotheosis & piercing the veil and his clan's morbid & doomed nature to portray the scenery in far harsher tones and vistas, with lots of war, wandering flagelants, pestilence, apocalyptic hysteria and a number of Lasombra diehards of catholic origin embarking along in the graverobbers ship of doom with their Antediluvian's fall, among other stuff...

              I'm also tempted to use Transylvania Chronicles lack of coherence in my favor, by breaking it apart and using some of the pieces as standalones and interludes in my own Giovanni Chronicles. Still have to order the main plot before toying with that, though.
              Last edited by Baaldam; 11-20-2016, 10:50 AM.

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              • #8
                I remember very fondly The Last Supper because I ran that during my college time, with the players having *no idea* they were going to be embraced. Playing it by candle light and lot of nice ambience. I truly scared them when their sires started to fuck with them.

                Also because that was part of the reason that I got laid with one of the players, which was quite hot.

                I plan to run it again from the Camarilla founders viewpoint because a good part of those are going to be my Byzantine elders.

                And I honestly don't know what is the problem to play with elders. I am running a chronicle with players ranging from 5th to 7th generation, and with an age of 400 to 200 years. And it's just a matter of levels, honestly. Everything can be adjusted and made fun.
                Last edited by CathakJordi; 01-27-2016, 01:56 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by CathakJordi View Post
                  I remember very fondly The Last Supper because I ran that during my college time, with the players having *no idea* they were going to be embraced. Playing it by candle light and lot of nice ambience. I truly scared them when their sires started to fuck with them.

                  Also because that was part of the reason that I got laid with one of the players, which was quite hot.
                  That's something to remember fondly indeed - i have a couple of friends, now married, that started from a similar situation in a D&D game.

                  Originally posted by CathakJordi View Post
                  I plan to run it again from the Camarilla founders viewpoint because a good part of those are going to be my Byzantine elders.
                  Do you mean that the elders NPCs from a Bizantine game of yours will be part of the Conspiracy of Isaac along or in place of the original roll call of 13, that you're planning on making the Founders into PCs in a Dark Ages game in the Bizantine Empire or something else altogether? It's not clear to me but got me quite curious.

                  The Founders as a group are interesting, though 9 times out of 10 it is Harderstadt "the Younger" who gets extra wordcount. Sometimes to add a bit of confusion and variety in high-level political games i have mixed them with the "Inner Circle" elders given in VtES, who make an interesting mix of canon NPCs and cyphers with Etrius, Stanislava, Lutz, Harrod, Alexandra, Gwendolyn and some others.

                  But then i like to rip or make up stuff from the occasional bit from VtES to throw a monkeywrench on any fluff or metaplot-related expectations from veteran players. Like revealing Japheth was Lazarus all along and has been dead for centuries (probably in book 1 in fact), making the identity of the Capuchin and whoever freed the Harbingers of Skulls even more of a mystery, to be possibly touched upon when i do reach Nuova Mallatia.

                  Originally posted by CathakJordi View Post
                  And I honestly don't know what is the problem to play with elders. I am running a chronicle with players ranging from 5th to 7th generation, and with an age of 400 to 200 years.
                  And it's just a matter of levels, honestly. Everything can be adjusted and made fun.
                  Just more of the "PCs should never get close to the top syndrome" overall. Possibly the reason why some NPCs from Children of Inquisition - Karsh and Tyler being some of the more blatant - had their ages or generation, when not both, somewhat inflated between Dark Ages and Revised era, i suspect. "Let some DA be rightfully the equal or better of the sects' jet-set, even when it makes all sense in the world? NEVER!!!"

                  A particularly cringeworthy/laughable bit from the Sun Has Set is a part about how they PCs have risen in the food chain and possibly become respected elders, archons and primogen, but the vaunted positions of princes and justicars are not yet quite in their reach - utterly ignoring how the PCs are about the same age as Wihelm Waldburg soon to be prince of Berlin and a whole century older than Madame Guil, not to mention the obvious fact the Americas are full of princes much, much younger than the PCs to say the least. It might not have felt so utterly ridiculous in Blood & Fire, when the PCs "only" had about 222 years as kindred... or perhaps it would anyway, YMMV.

                  That said, disciplines in the 6+ can indeed bring new twists and complications to the advancement of a story and considering how railroady many of those old materials were i can see why some of the writers might have been leery of them. Not to mention access to major NPCs, sources of information in the top-tiers of the sects and such.
                  Last edited by Baaldam; 11-20-2016, 11:03 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
                    A particularly cringeworthy/laghable bit from the Sun Has Set is a part about how they PCs have risen in the food chain and possibly become respected elders, archons and primogen, but the vaunted positions of princes and justicars are not yet quite in their reach - utterly ignoring how the PCs are about the same age as Wihelm Waldburg soon to be prince of Berlin and a whole century older than Madame Guil, not to mention the obvious fact the Americas are full of princes much, much younger than the PCs to say the least. It might not have felt so utterly ridiculous in Blood & Fire, when the PCs "only" had about 222 years as kindred... or perhaps it would anyway, YMMV.
                    This is confusing to me, because vampires in general have no way of verifying your clan, age, generation and sire. If you show up in Venice and say that you are a 6th generation childer of Finklebottom Kipurovich the Brujah, then there's fuck all anyone who is not a Tremere can do to test your claim. And you are not giving your blood to a warlock because duh. Age and generation are absolutely unusable as a way to determine anyone's political standing outside of your city of origin.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mahasamatman View Post

                      This is confusing to me, because vampires in general have no way of verifying your clan, age, generation and sire. If you show up in Venice and say that you are a 6th generation childer of Finklebottom Kipurovich the Brujah, then there's fuck all anyone who is not a Tremere can do to test your claim. And you are not giving your blood to a warlock because duh. Age and generation are absolutely unusable as a way to determine anyone's political standing outside of your city of origin.
                      Age while more elusive than generation can certainly show somewhat through the attitude, knowledge & outlook and exactly for this might be "seen" with no magic, what can reflect in things like a vampire just arrived in the city being accepted as ancilla or elder, due to one's hoariness basically leaking through its words, interests and opinions - Corbin and Bryan in Chicago by Night 2nd edition serving as two possible examples of this - and also something that may go all too easily against an elder trying to fake being younger than actually is, for example.

                      And generation even without spot-on detection can affect one's raw power - though one might say any time that a vampire opens the can of worms of elder powers probably means things have come all too close to hitting the fan - and put together the two things can correlate to one's capacity kick ass & take names wherever they go and getting something of a name along the way, i guess. At least it is a way of looking at it.

                      Anyway, i was throwing something of a light into some inane commentary of writers ignoring their own game's sense of scale more than anything. Because saying "the PCs are not old or connected enough to be X yet" at an stage they have become older than a number of princes and some well-established justicars sems kind of silly to me, to say the least. Ok, not every character will get some of the cushiest chairs for their intrigues and travails, but why not let PCs and ST decide on this on their own?

                      In fact being archons or justicars with their duties and agendas could fit quite well with the plot of obsessively hunting stuff in the Founders' (or their own) name for ages and yet having to occasionally suffer with decades or centuries of interruption in their search...
                      Last edited by Baaldam; 01-27-2016, 04:42 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Baaldam View Post

                        Do you mean that the elders NPCs from a Bizantine game of yours will be part of the Conspiracy of Isaac along or in place of the original roll call of 13, that you're planning on making the Founders into PCs in a Dark Ages game in the Bizantine Empire or something else altogether? It's not clear to me but got me quite curious.
                        I mean some of my elder PCs (not NPCs) will be part of the Camarilla founders instead of the stablished ones in the official material. My Malkavian character (who basically has the mindset of Batman) is set to be a very likely first Camarilla Justicar if things keep going the way they are. My tremere is also a good candidate as he is one of the first tremere in Western Europe with good relations to stablished elders. All my group have excellent relations with Hardedstadt thanks to the last game sessions where they have alligned with him in my 'Ventrue' stage in the War of the Princes. And the Malkavian and the Ventrue players are also stablishing very good relations with a certain Toreador ancillae (at this point) called Rafael de Corazon, who is fascinated by the tales of Constantinople where several clan lines collaborated succesfully and without a problem even at the ruling level (something that is *very* weird by now for a Dark Ages western european vampire in the last centuries in my campaign).

                        So the approach of my players at that point (1444... and we are still a faaaar way from there, since it's currently 1276 in my game now, and they still have to survive through the latest stages of the War of the Princes, a hard century of full blown Inquisition and then the start of the Anarch Revolt) will be finding out with Rafael and Hardedstadt the clues of the incoming conspiracy, investigate and then attack the conspiracy of Isaac, finding the neonates and so on.

                        Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
                        That said, disciplines in the 6+ can indeed bring new twists and complications to the advancement of a story and considering how railroady many of those old materials were i can see why some of the writers might have been leery of them. Not to mention access to major NPCs, sources of information in the top-tiers of the sects and such.
                        I honestly have no problem with disciplines at 6 to 8. For my style of play and gamemastering, only the level 9 of disciplines start to bother me. I am using level 6-7 levels without any problem all the time. The last game had a very elder 5th generation Nosferatu pitched against my players, and nobody felt it odd or exaggerated (he specially used lvl 8 animalism power to disable the Malkavian, for instance). Of course, having been playing Exalted and in the far past Mage makes this sort of level feel like 'business as usual'. I think the usual phobia you sometimes seem to percieve behind certain stuff in official material for elder level of power is truly unwarranted.

                        About possitions of power, my ventrue player is already the Princess of Geneva (and honestly since 1205 everything is about keeping the city). I really plan to make the Malkavian player the first Malkavian Justicar. And probably the Tremere player will get something in the line, but in this case he is more Primogen material, I cant really see him trying to for a city of his own, and he is still too young and there are enough tremere inner circle members to not opt for later Camarilla Inner Circle or Justicar level. But he can really have the prestige of being a founder, who initially don't have to be super ancient or super low generation. Just the guys who collaborate in creating the idea.

                        During the first campaign in Contastinople (789 to 1204), the link of union of the player characters was the fact of their joint embrace after the death of Antonius and then their finding of the Vinculum in their first assignment, keeping them tight and united through centuries (since they know that the discovery of how to break blood bonds that easily would be something that would put all them in mortal danger).

                        In this second act, that would go from their taking of Geneva to the aftermath of the Convention of Thorns (1206 to 1495) the link is clearly the city of Geneva. Even if they get possitions of power (Malkavian Justicar, Tremere founder), they still will probably base themselves in Geneva where the Ventrue is happy to be a rising power as a Princess. But of course, a lot of things can happen in 2 centuries of turmoil... I like to keep my options open. Who knows, they might eventually join the sabbat. They sometimes are crazy like that.
                        Last edited by CathakJordi; 02-04-2016, 05:04 AM.

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                        • #13
                          I've mixed TC, UtBC and GC 2&3 together. They all needed tweaking, but TC proves the biggest challenge there. Extremely railroaded and sometimes lacks direction, even though it has some nice elements.


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