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Salvaging the Ashwood Abbey

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  • Salvaging the Ashwood Abbey

    Pretty much a thought experiment.

    So, I was reading TvTropes at work (slow day), and troping Hunter: The Vigil, and reading some entries about Ashwood Abbey got me thinking. Now, I get why a lot of people hate them, and I'd be the first to admit that they're almost unplayable as a protagonist faction (it'd require a very mature, or very immature, group to make them work). But they kind of appeal to me on a somewhat base level, and I thought there might be a way make them, if not actually decent, at least interesting beyond shock value (though they should definitely retain that, it's kind of their thing). What really got me thinking was reading one bit, which stated that a supplemental book noted the Abbey is less about their debauched parties and more about rubbing elbows with the monsters on their own turf, and things kind of spun off from that.

    So, for starters, the Abbey loves to socialize with the monsters. The high society parties where some Vampires and Changelings can be found, the dive bars and clubs where other Vampires and Changelings and most Werewolves can be found, the academic halls where one runs into Mages doing research, the wakes and celebrations of life where Sin-Eaters abound. And they get close, and they smile, and they chat, and they piece together rumors and gossip, and they eavsdrop to learn the secrets. They become one of the most well-informed Hunter groups, paying attention to the strings that bind the various societies of the supernatural together. The Abbey may be degenerate hedonists, but they aren't stupid. They understand well the concept of unstable equilibrium, they're familiar with collapsing houses of cards, and know not to just go tugging on any random thread they trip over. So the listen, and watch, and learn, and when they learn of a supernatural creature that truly deserves their attentions, that's when the hunt begins, of course with a victory party to celebrate success. Or they have the hunt so they can have the party, either way.

    They'll take on coteries of VII and Belial's Brood, or those possessed by Strix. They'll seek out the Pure and the Bale Hounds and the Spirit-Claimed. They'll ambush the Banishers and Seers of the Throne and take them down before they can get a spell off. They'll ensnare Pandorans and Centimani, Privateers and Loyalists. They'll dose a Slasher with enough thorazine to kill a rhino, and find out exactly how death-proof an Abmortal really is. They'll kill as many monsters as they need to, but the real goal is taking a prisoner or two. For the party.

    Once they have their prisoner, then the victory party begins, and that's where the degenerate debauched decadence comes in. I have one idea for a kind of party that should be safe to post here, though it's still pretty sick, because. . . well, Ashwood Abbey.

    So this requires probably just one vampire, maybe two, and is probably one of their more common party types, given how easy it probably is to find vampires up to no good. Two or three partygoers won't be participating, but rather will be decided (however the Abbey feels it's fair to decide such things) for their sharpshooting skills and standing by with crossbows. The captive vampire would be chained to a wall, and a selection of knives placed nearby, and the partygoers go get high off vampire blood. Things really kick into high gear once the vampire is drained of most of their vitae, and one or two attendees (ideally, someone fairly new to the Abbey, as a sort of initiation, otherwise, just someone bold and stupid enough) will make a small cut on their hand, and wave it in front of the vampire's face, provoking the nearly-drained vampire to frenzy.

    But wait, I hear you cry, isn't having a frenzied vampire chained to a wall in an enclosed space with lots of tasty humans, at least one of them actively bleeding, a suicidally bad idea? Well, yes, yes it is. But watching a vampire frenzy up-close would be quite the thrill, quite the intense experience. And knowing that vampire, even all but bereft of vitae, could break those chains and slaughter them all. . . that's riding the razor's edge of life and death. That's living. Besides, that's what the guys with crossbows are for.

    If the vampire does start to break free, or they just decide they've seen enough frenzy, the sharpshooters stake the vampire with a crossbow bolt, thus marking the end of the climax of the party. The attendees take whatever blood is left, then the staked and probably torpid vampire is sent to their Final Death. I imagine using a guillotine would be popular. . . decapitation is one of the easiest and surest ways of destroying a vampire, and the guillotine has a certain theatricality to it I think the Abbey would enjoy.

    So, yeah, they're still horrible, horrible people, who get their kicks doing terrible things to supernatural creatures. . . but they keep informed, and they make absolutely certain, whenever they have a party, that the guest of honor deserves exactly what's about to happen to them. They keep the legitimately dangerous monsters off the streets, so who cares if they have a little fun with them before they go? There's some interesting moral grey area to explore there. Also, given their ability to learn the sordid details of the societies of the monsters, it's worth their while for other Hunter groups to cultivate contacts within the Abbey. . . loathsome as that task might be.


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  • #2
    The way I see it, the Abbey only fail as Hunter protagonists only when under the unspoken assumption that hunters have to be The Good Guys. Which I dearly hope Hunter 2E throws out, and which in turn the reason why I find this approach to the Abbey refreshing.


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    • #3
      I'm pretty sure the easiest way to "salvage" Ashwood Abbey is to actually believe the books when they repeatedly make it quite clear that only a minority of Abbey cells are the "If you're lucky they'll kill, rape, and eat you in that order" kind.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Sith_Happens View Post
        I'm pretty sure the easiest way to "salvage" Ashwood Abbey is to actually believe the books when they repeatedly make it quite clear that only a minority of Abbey cells are the "If you're lucky they'll kill, rape, and eat you in that order" kind.
        Ashwood Abbey - the hunters with the worst PR!


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        • #5
          Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
          Ashwood Abbey - the hunters with the worst PR!
          Including in-universe, according to Tooth and Nail. I can't help but wonder if that part was a deliberate jab at the fandom. :P

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          • #6
            Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
            The way I see it, the Abbey only fail as Hunter protagonists only when under the unspoken assumption that hunters have to be The Good Guys. Which I dearly hope Hunter 2E throws out, and which in turn the reason why I find this approach to the Abbey refreshing.

            Well, to a degree, "Hunters are not necessarily the good guys" has been part of the game line since the beginning. Just among the main sourcebook lines, you've got the obviously-compromised hybrid death squad / hide everything soldiers of TF:V, the Malleus which is a cancer on Catholic belief, Cheiron's profit-driven dismemberment of non-humans. And then outside that there's murderous fanatics like the Cainite Heresy, spirit-servants like Les Mysteres, and the Knights of St. George. Even VASCU runs a murder ring.

            Honestly, the problem with the Ashwood Abbey is that while a lot of people are fine with playing morally-ambiguous or dark characters, rape and torture-for-fun tend to be moral event horizons.

            (I also like the approach here: "Thrillseeking vigilante justice" is something I can work with the way "Thrillseeking hellfire club abusers" is not).

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            • #7
              Well, the way I look at it, most any group in the WoD should be playable somewhere on the good-evil spectrum, the exception being groups whose whole purpose is evil, like Belial's Brood. The Cheiron Group may do some pretty nasty things, and they may mess with things they don't entirely understand and have them blow up in their faces, but the option is still there that everything they do is in the cause of advancing human knowledge about the world and applying that knowledge of the benefit of mankind. Do werewolves hold the cure for cancer? Can the hisil solve Earth's energy crisis? Let's find out.

              So the intent here is place the Abbey more on the "not completely evil" end of the spectrum by giving them the option of only going after the truly awful nasties in the WoD. What they do after is still horrible, but they're doing it to things really deserve it, so that's not so bad, right? The option still exists to sink them straight back into utterly irredeemable territory, or have them be closer to The Friend Nobody Likes rather than the Token Evil Teammate.
              Last edited by ErikModi; 03-10-2018, 09:56 PM.


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              • #8
                I've always presented the Abbey as being the group that knows most about the social set up of the monsters. Other groups might know how best to kill a vampire but the Abbey is most likely to know that the mayor's chief aide is a ghoul. How? He attended Nathan's last party and told everyone while drunk. His master hasn't been treating him too well and now the Abbey is going after him. Or maybe the vampire himself is friends with the Abbey but some of the others need to be put down.

                I think there is a lot of scope to present the Abbey's relationships with the various splats as actually being more nuanced than most groups since the Abbey's mentality is potentially closer to the mentality of the splats.

                This can be played for good or bad.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mirthless View Post


                  Well, to a degree, "Hunters are not necessarily the good guys" has been part of the game line since the beginning. Just among the main sourcebook lines, you've got the obviously-compromised hybrid death squad / hide everything soldiers of TF:V, the Malleus which is a cancer on Catholic belief, Cheiron's profit-driven dismemberment of non-humans. And then outside that there's murderous fanatics like the Cainite Heresy, spirit-servants like Les Mysteres, and the Knights of St. George. Even VASCU runs a murder ring.

                  Honestly, the problem with the Ashwood Abbey is that while a lot of people are fine with playing morally-ambiguous or dark characters, rape and torture-for-fun tend to be moral event horizons.

                  (I also like the approach here: "Thrillseeking vigilante justice" is something I can work with the way "Thrillseeking hellfire club abusers" is not).
                  AA was basically to cement that Hunter's are not (necessarily) the good guys, since the job of "They shoot monsters" generally gives them that title by default. TF:V and MM are both pretty "Good leaning", TF:V is compromised but in the end many of its members are noble soldiers generally trying to make the world a better place and the "secretly run by vampires" thing wasn't added officially until the C&C book. Malmal has a faction of trigger/explosion happy guys and occasionally puts an inquisitor cap on, but many are still good people trying to make the world a better place etc. If you put TF:V or MM against at least 75% of the factions in the CoD, they either look like saints (pun intended) in comparison, or at least comparatively ambiguously moral. Then AA came along and showed everyone Hunters could be just as evil as bloodthirsty vampires.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ruger View Post

                    AA was basically to cement that Hunter's are not (necessarily) the good guys, since the job of "They shoot monsters" generally gives them that title by default. TF:V and MM are both pretty "Good leaning", TF:V is compromised but in the end many of its members are noble soldiers generally trying to make the world a better place and the "secretly run by vampires" thing wasn't added officially until the C&C book. Malmal has a faction of trigger/explosion happy guys and occasionally puts an inquisitor cap on, but many are still good people trying to make the world a better place etc. If you put TF:V or MM against at least 75% of the factions in the CoD, they either look like saints (pun intended) in comparison, or at least comparatively ambiguously moral. Then AA came along and showed everyone Hunters could be just as evil as bloodthirsty vampires.
                    Black Ops Soldiers (with a No Witnesses doctrine) and The Inquisition (run by a Ghoul) are "Good leaning"? Okay...

                    I've always seen the core of the Abbey as "Thrill Seekers" + "Rich Dilettante". The degeneracy certainly has a niche in either/both of them, but is hardly necessary or core. Nothing stops a Cell or Chapter of the Abbey from holding to strict and ethical rules regarding the hunt (either for moral reasons, or just to make "the game" more sporting).
                    Last edited by Vent0; 03-08-2018, 09:44 PM.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Vent0 View Post

                      Black Ops Soldiers (with a No Witnesses doctrine) and The Inquisition (run by a Ghoul) are Good leaning? Okay...
                      For what passes for good in the world of darkness? Yes.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Lord Jub-Jub View Post

                        For what passes for good in the world of darkness? Yes.

                        The Dusk Court, Al Ahl Jabal, Yuri's Group, The Talbot Group, etc object to this

                        There are relatively good folk in the CoD. Unfortunately, moral compromise gets to them all eventually and they often end up making things worse.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Vent0 View Post

                          Black Ops Soldiers (with a No Witnesses doctrine) and The Inquisition (run by a Ghoul) are "Good leaning"? Okay...

                          I've always seen the core of the Abbey as "Thrill Seekers" + "Rich Dilettante". The degeneracy certainly has a niche in either/both of them, but is hardly necessary or core. Nothing stops a Cell or Chapter of the Abbey from holding to strict and ethical rules regarding the hunt (either for moral reasons, or just to make "the game" more sporting).
                          The black ops soldiers specifically developed memory erasing juice to avoid unnecessary casualties, and The Inquisition is fighting an enemy made up of ghouls (and their leaders). They fit into the "Good goals, bad means" category of hunters. If you compare them to say, 1E vampires (the best of whom where one meeting away from uncontrollably flipping out and killing someone) in a suitably grey group, they often come out on top.
                          Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post

                          The Dusk Court, Al Ahl Jabal, Yuri's Group, The Talbot Group, etc object to this

                          There are relatively good folk in the CoD. Unfortunately, moral compromise gets to them all eventually and they often end up making things worse.
                          MM has at least one faction specifically dedicated to protecting the innocent, and TFV are a legitimate government agency despite their flaws. I never said they where the most morally pure paragons in the COD, just that they "Lean Good". You can name some absolutely atrocious groups (Hunt Club, Bale Hounds, Seers of the Throne, and occasionally AA, etc) too. If you had to place them between the "worst group" and the "best", they would be much closer to the best than the worse.

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                          • #14
                            In areas where the Abbey has been active for some time, they become quite the cautionary tale for some supernatural beings in the area. "Be a good little Kindred, and don't break the Masquerade, or the Abbey will come for you, and this is what they'll do. . ."

                            In those places where the Ashwood Abbey gets very well established, they take the ultimate chance for the ultimate thrill. . . they introduce themselves to the local monsters, explain who they are and what they're about, and offer their services as trouble-shooters and problem-solvers in exchange for the experiences only the creatures of the night can provide. They'll donate blood to the Kindred in exchange for the ecstasy of the Kiss, and they'll seek out and take down vampiric troublemakers in exchange for being allowed to play with the victim first, and whatever other wonders of the night the Kindred can show them. They'll bolster an Uratha pack's numbers against the Pure, in exchange for a jaunt into the Hisil to see a whole new world. The ways by which a Mage could enhance an Ashwood Abbey party is limited only by the imagination of both parties. And they'll offer all the excess of emotion they have to Changelings to feed on in return for the unique pleasures Changelings and their Fetches afford.

                            Obviously, this has backfired tremendously on many chapters of the Abbey over the course of their history. Few supernatural beings are willing to allow a group of self-admitted Hunters the opportunity to explain before eliminating them as a threat, and if they choose to hear the explanation, most will still err on the side of caution. Notably, the Abbey went functionally extinct in St. Paul some fifty years ago when they revealed themselves to the Winter King of Twin Cities Freehold at the time, who had his top motley take them on a brief tour through the Hedge. Rather than lead them back, however, the motley showed them to a door into Arcadia, booted the Abbey members into the realm of a True Fae responsible for most of the Freehold's Changelings, then ran like hell. (It should be noted that this Winter King and his top motley were later executed for collusion with Loyalists, rumors abound that the Abbey has recently started setting up a new chapter in Minneapolis, and the Freehold has started receiving escapees from Arcadia who were among those betrayed Abbey members).


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ruger View Post
                              TFV are a legitimate government agency despite their flaws.
                              Aren't they kept secret from the president? Because I'm pretty sure that precludes them from being a "legitimate" anything.

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