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  • Storytelling for Dummies

    Ollo! I'm going to be Storytelling VtR for a couple of friends next week (yay!), which is complicated by the fact that I've never run any tabletop game as DM/GM/etc. before. I've played games as a player before, and I'm certainly well-acquainted with the concepts, etc. I'm just not sure on my ability to run the whole show. (to be honest, I don't really want to ST, but I want to give them a good experience)

    The players have almost no actual tabletop experience at all, which is both good and bad; there's more pressure on me to be the "guide," but less expectations to live up to. I was thinking of coming up with a simple outline for potential plot points/encounters and then just playing it pretty loosy-goosey; letting them bumble around and kinda explaining things as we go. I'm better at improv than meticulous planning, anyway.

    Does anyone have any advice how I can better approach this, and maybe some suggestions for what I should have them face? Thanks!

  • #2
    Mortal might be a better choice for first exposure, make some horror movie staples and let them pick their character or make their own. Given novice role players I wouldn't try and make them learn both the setting and the rules at the same time.

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    • #3
      If you've never DMed/GMed any RPG before, after reading the rules and dogearing or bookmarking the sections that list the mechanics for powers and merits I would suggest running one of the canned adventure settings that come with pre-generated PCs and stat blocks for the NPCs.
      If time is not premium (as in you have plenty of it) Go over character creation with each player individually. It will give you an idea of what aspects of the game interest them the most and you can possibly use those details as inspiration for a story as well as hints on how to design antagonists to challenge them and protagonists that would have something to offer/motivate the PCs besides more status to be used as a stick or the concept thereof being ignored entirely.

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      • #4
        Vampire's a great game to start with, because everyone knows the fundamentals. I recommend starting by focusing on the characters' basic needs. Open with their car breaking down on the outskirts of the city 10 minutes before sunrise. After that, tell them they're hungry. As they look for food, have them run into other vampires with their own territories and agendas. (Some of those agendas should even be friendly... but be careful of what a 150-year-old people-eater thinks is helpful....) Make your plots out of the things that inevitably go wrong.


        Rose Bailey
        Onyx Path Development Producer
        Cavaliers of Mars Creator | Chronicles of Darkness Lead Developer

        Retired as forum administrator. Please direct inquiries to the Contact Us link.

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        • #5
          If you're all relatively new, you might want to start with a Storytelling Adventure System adventure like Reap the Whirlwind. SAS is great, they break the adventures down into scenes, and lay the scenes out into a flowchart, so you have something of a guideline but a lot of flexibility within that. Even if you don't run it it's worth a read for a good example of top notch adventure design and planning.


          Onyx Path Forum Moderator

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          • #6
            Greg Stolze, one of the writers for Vampire: The Requiem 1 and author of the first novel for the setting, has great essays on playing and GMing, at the bottom of the Downloads page on his site.


            Craig Oxbrow
            The Trinity Continuum freelancer

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            • #7
              Thanks for the input, everyone! Fun fact: it turns out they may not even have realized(!!) that Vampire (the game) involves playing as vampires (the monster). They probably suspect now, given that I was asking questions about what their favorite kind of vampire was (obviously, to get an idea of what clan they'd like), but it still makes me think starting them off as mortals is the best way to go.

              My current thought is: two humans are traveling in a car when it breaks down on the outskirts of a city just before dusk. We can then run through basic stuff like how to talk/act in character, maybe make a few rolls based on the skills they pick. (such as, if one has skills related to mechanics) They might try and arrange transport...whatever. Point is, while they're messing around, the sun goes down. And a pack of Gangrel come out to play. (they don't know they're Grangrel, but they indicated they liked "bestial" vampires and thought they sounded the most interesting) From there, I'll basically work around how they play and react (maybe they try to talk to them, or avoid them, or investigate, or whatever) and have them end up in some kind of confrontation.

              How it progresses is based on what they do while playing; like I said, I'll keep it loose and just kinda adapt. Maybe they'll end up ghouls, or get Embraced, or whatever. Depends on whether they're having fun, and what's been the most interesting to them.

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              • #8
                I've been Storytelling VtR for about 5 months now so here's a few things I've learned in the process:

                I second the emphasis on basic needs, at least at the start. Vampire can be a very visceral game, and at its core a vampire's most fundamental concerns are survival. They need to feed, quite regularly, and especially before and after engaging in dangerous activity. They need shelter from the sun and from hostile beings, which includes most mortals who have reason to suspect them. It sounds like you're planning on starting your characters off as humans and then becoming vampires. As new kindred with no experience in living as a monster, its a good idea to focus on these aspects at the beginning, as they'll usually tell a story by themselves. The way to make them interesting is to add complications. For instance, if your characters decide they need to feed and find a likely target, focus on all the logical complications of rendering them helpless, avoiding detection in the process, and getting away without drawing attention. If your characters are still squeamish about feeding on humans (which they probably ought to be, since they're new at this. Unless they're psychopaths they probably won't start resorting to attacking random people right away) they might try to feed on animals. Have someone come across them that is horrified by the sight, like a hunter if they're out in the wilderness or a pet owner. If they're looking for shelter, maybe they find a likely abandoned place they can use, but it's already got a homeless squatter and there's only a short time before sunrise.

                In addition to these basic needs, put a lot of emphasis on the character's Touchstones. These are the physical representations of they're prior, ordinary life. They are often going to be people the characters care strongly about. Be sure to hint often that the characters should feel the need to see them and confide in them. Give the Touchstones an active role, with aspirations of their own, and make it so the characters want to help them accomplish them or keep them out of the trouble they get in in the process. If the characters make any serious enemies who are unscrupulous and knowledgeable (like most Kindred), don't hesitate to make them go straight after the Touchstones. Threatening their loved ones is a great tactic for enemies because it makes the players actions predictable, allowing the enemies to entrap them. This doesn't mean your characters have to fall for it. A lot of drama could be had in the characters refusing to walk into a trap to protect they're loved ones and losing Humanity in the process. Or they could decide to fight fire with fire and go after their enemies Touchstones, hoping to make an exchange of hostages.

                Think about how the npc vampires think of these new upstarts. Do they consider them a threat to their territory or the masquerade, to be eliminated? Do they see them as easy pawns to be forced into labor or vinculum (blood bond that comes from feeding on vitae)? Do they see them as prospective allies, or feel the need to immediately establish superiority over them?

                Lastly, a bit of practical advice: expect plenty of violence, but little drawn-out combat. Vampires have so many methods of conflict resolution that usually cuts a combat encounter down to a few quick dice rolls. Ventrue can mesmerize their enemies into obedience, Nosferatu can force them to flee in terror. Obsfucation can be used to vanish while Celerity can be used to disappear in a burst of speed. Majesty can whip a whole crowd into assaulting an enemy, while Animalism can accomplish the same thing with beasts. Even without disciplines, conflicts tend to resolve swiftly. A pair of vampires fighting tooth and claw will tend to result in Frenzy, and a Frenzied vampire is extremely deadly. Even acts of Predatory Aura can be used to get enemies to back down without an actual fight occurring. Because of all of this, I find that conflicts between vampires tend to be more about leverage, striking at each others power base and vulnerabilities rather than trying to resort to physical damage which can just be healed with a bit of vitae.

                I'm really enjoying VtR a lot and have learned a lot from playing so far, so if you have any more specific questions feel free to ask.

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                • #9
                  Rose is right - Vampire is probably the easiest "monster" CofD game for a new player and GM to figure out. Vampires are pretty basic - they drink blood, burn up in flames, and can't go in the sun - and their powers are extremely uncomplicated (super speed, super strength, super tough, ESP, mind control, animal control, shapeshifting, invisibility, etc.) Most people know the myths behind vampires, and the five clans correspond.

                  My first suggestion would be to not get 'too' into the lore right out the gate. Don't worry about bloodlines, unless you or your players want to, and try and make the covenants as easy to understand as possible. Use broad concepts.

                  Probably the best thing you can do for yourself and your players is to research the city you want to set the game in. Vampire is "The City." The history of your city, the culture of your city, the neighborhoods of your city, all of that is Vampire to the core.

                  And I think that's all I've got for now.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RomulusGloriosus View Post
                    Vampires are pretty basic - they drink blood, burn up in flames, and can't go in the sun - and their powers are extremely uncomplicated (super speed, super strength, super tough, ESP, mind control, animal control, shapeshifting, invisibility, etc.)
                    I disagree on this point. Except for super strength, super speed and super tough, other disciplines are complicated enough (it's not a critic, I love the new disciplines and what they allows). Auspex is so hard to use properly, while Majesty is simply the supernatural charme its application and its mechanics are not simple to handle for a new GM (how should other npc act knowing that such power exist?).

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Marcus View Post

                      I disagree on this point. Except for super strength, super speed and super tough, other disciplines are complicated enough (it's not a critic, I love the new disciplines and what they allows). Auspex is so hard to use properly, while Majesty is simply the supernatural charme its application and its mechanics are not simple to handle for a new GM (how should other npc act knowing that such power exist?).
                      I mean, that's fair. To each their own. I always found the Disciplines to be far less complicated than, say, Gifts, or the free-form sorceries of the Arcana. Requiem (1e) was also the first WoD/CofD game I ever ran, back in 2008, so I'm also sort of speaking from experience. But it's true that the first two powers of Auspex are notoriously frustrating to use properly, and Majesty requires a firm understanding of the conditions system. But they're still MUCH easier than any other power group imo.

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                      • #12
                        Just based on my experience, I've found that the people who tend to have problems coming into the Chronicles system seem to be those who are used to other systems.

                        Auspex is not difficult so much as it offers a way around problems standard games rely on. Figuring out how Conditions work is pretty easy, but it exists as an alternative to effects. Cast 'charm person' John makes John willing to do whatever for you with some caveats. Use 'Confident' on John and he gets the Charmed Condition and the same thing.

                        I agree that Vampire is probably the easiest way to get into the game, if you don't just start with mortal. The convenient bit about that is that mortals can turn into vampires, or werewolves or mages.

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                        • #13
                          Just to understand: why should gifts be harder to handle in front of disciplines?

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                          • #14
                            One thing I could think of is that they tend to involve a storyteller investment. Ideally you perform the sacred hunt to get your Gifts, something not everyone has planned for.

                            But on their own they're pretty simple too. Mage is where it gets far more open ended.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nofather View Post
                              One thing I could think of is that they tend to involve a storyteller investment. Ideally you perform the sacred hunt to get your Gifts, something not everyone has planned for.
                              Bingo. Disciplines spontaneously manifest in the Blood, Gifts actually require you to track down spirits and receive them. 1e also required you have a certain amount of Renown, too, which required the ST to explain the Renown system on top of the powers. I'm not sure if 2e still does that, since I just got my copy of Forsaken 2e yesterday. On their own, true, they're not much more complicated in terms of the powers themselves than Disciplines are.

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