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GMing Vampire: What NOT to do

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  • GMing Vampire: What NOT to do

    I saw this in a couple other subforums and didn't find one for Requiem.

    I'm starting a new chronicle soon after a long hiatus from both CofD(it was nWoD when I last did), and as a ST in general.

    I have a pretty good idea where the story will go, but I'm intrigued to see what comes out of this topic to help me and/or other aspiring or returning Storytellers.

  • #2
    For the Vampire family, and other games about supernatural characters, don't neglect human characters. It's very easy to focus on the supers but there are thousands of humans to every vampire, and they can provide plenty of opportunities for trouble.

    In Vampire: The Requiem second edition specifically, connecting with Touchstones and staying in contact with humans as more than just prey is important in maintaining one's Humanity, so there are rules reasons to feature human NPCs as well. A mix of mortal and vampire player characters is a viable and interesting option too.


    Craig Oxbrow
    The Trinity Continuum freelancer

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    • #3
      When creating NPCs, make sure they're all at different levels to your PCs. You want incompetent NPCs to act as foils, middling NPCs to act as peers, and more powerful NPCs to act as heavy-hitters.

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      • #4
        First you need to ask yourself: what is a game of Vampire exactly?

        There are many different play styles, almost more than any other RPG (Chronicles of Darkness or otherwise). When you sit down to play Poker, there's an implied set of rules. Same thing for say... A Call of Cthulhu game; you know the characters are going to explore crazy shit and eldtritch abominations and lose their sanity on the way...or when playing Dungeons and Dragons, you know it will be a Swords & Sorcery experience.

        Now for Vampire, it's a bit more complicated. Some players want political intrigue, others don't like political play and prefer to flip tables and play Diablerie campaigns. Some want personal horror, they want to explore their character's relationships with mortals. Some will say they want a bit of everything but will be dissatisfied with one aspect or another once play starts. One thing Vampire isn't is an action game, you can try being a badass vampire all you want but that will eventually get you kicked fangs first in the mud and prove inefficient for your character's survival in the long run (if your ST knows what they're doing).

        So as a rule, always discuss what you want to play with your players. Oftentimes they'll come expecting something and find something else entirely different to their tastes. After that's done sit down and decide on the do's and don'ts

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Shawarbaaz View Post
          First you need to ask yourself: what is a game of Vampire exactly?

          There are many different play styles, almost more than any other RPG (Chronicles of Darkness or otherwise). When you sit down to play Poker, there's an implied set of rules. Same thing for say... A Call of Cthulhu game; you know the characters are going to explore crazy shit and eldtritch abominations and lose their sanity on the way...or when playing Dungeons and Dragons, you know it will be a Swords & Sorcery experience.

          Now for Vampire, it's a bit more complicated. Some players want political intrigue, others don't like political play and prefer to flip tables and play Diablerie campaigns. Some want personal horror, they want to explore their character's relationships with mortals. Some will say they want a bit of everything but will be dissatisfied with one aspect or another once play starts. One thing Vampire isn't is an action game, you can try being a badass vampire all you want but that will eventually get you kicked fangs first in the mud and prove inefficient for your character's survival in the long run (if your ST knows what they're doing).

          So as a rule, always discuss what you want to play with your players. Oftentimes they'll come expecting something and find something else entirely different to their tastes. After that's done sit down and decide on the do's and don'ts

          While I disagree that Vampire cannot be an action game, I do agree with the fact that before you start a campaign of Vampire, find out what kind of game your players want to play and then go from there.

          Some people like personal horror, others prefer action and adventure, some are in it for the political intrigue, while others want a mix of themes (I like a mix of politics and action, for example) and be sure to know what kind of game you want to run and also what kind of game your players want to play.

          Vampire is a very malleable game with malleable themes, and like all the other New World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness games, is meant to be a tool kit to build your own style of campaign with.

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          • #6
            Among the different gamelines in CofD, Vampire has one of the largest potentials for straight up action with a sizeable portion of the Disciplines, several innate template traits/powers, and a multitude (potentially infinite with homebrewing) of Devotions, all geared towards combat. With Frenzy checks it might not even be possible to avoid it at times, even if you're aiming for an intrigue and/or personal horror style game. Many think about vampires as the "social splat" but the rules focus just as much on combat. Perhaps this misconception comes from the first edition where fresh vampires were almost as sucky as most humans rather than the physical powerhouses even intrigue-focused vampires are today?
            Last edited by Tessie; 07-11-2018, 11:23 AM.


            Bloodline: The Stygians
            Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
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            • #7
              All of these are great suggestions and ideas.

              I think one of the main mistakes done by some STs in any game setting is to not set expectations and ask the expectations from the players, which usually takes a good chunk of my preparation/prologue session.

              Another thing I try to avoid is to not focus enough on the characters in favor of the general Chronicles. I rarely plan more than a few sessions ahead and even then it is just a general guidelines rather than a whole plot that needs to be followed, which in the past helped me with the flow.

              So far I really enjoy much more the way disciplines are handled in 2E and I adore the Conditions mechanic.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tessie View Post
                Perhaps this misconception comes from the first edition where fresh vampires were almost as sucky as most humans rather than the physical powerhouses even intrigue-focused vampires are today?
                I think it's more to do with the fact that Vampire's core gameplay loops relate to their creeping alienation from humanity and complete lack of free resource generation and its magical powers are pretty much all premised on the fact that you don't want to be dead.

                You can certainly play the high-stakes escalation game and funnel Vitae from your environs like a particularly visceral Promethean Wasteland, but risk-aversion and proxy battles tend to be the most practical long-term survival strategies for the Kindred even in 2e.
                Last edited by Satchel; 07-11-2018, 01:14 PM.


                Resident Sanguinary Analyst
                Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                  I think it's more to do with the fact that Vampire's core gameplay loops relate to their creeping alienation from humanity and complete lack of free resource generation and its magical powers are pretty much all premised on the fact that you don't want to be dead.

                  You can certainly play the high-stakes escalation game and funnel Vitae from your environs like a particularly visceral Promethean Wasteland, but risk-aversion and proxy battles tend to be the most practical long-term survival strategies for the Kindred even in 2e.
                  I think the violence amps up once everybody's on the same page in this regard:

                  Politics is violent in Vampire.

                  Not all the time.

                  Deals do get done at a table. But whenever push comes to shove, and there's a lot of shoving in Vampire, there's no replacement for good ol' fashioned violence. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: "speak softly and carry a big stick."

                  I can't imagine any ruler staying in power for long without potent martial capabilities backing them up (whether personally or through a loyal sheriff, hounds, and a battalion of ghoul'd combat veterans).

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Alexander_Drako View Post
                    All of these are great suggestions and ideas.

                    I think one of the main mistakes done by some STs in any game setting is to not set expectations and ask the expectations from the players, which usually takes a good chunk of my preparation/prologue session.

                    Another thing I try to avoid is to not focus enough on the characters in favor of the general Chronicles. I rarely plan more than a few sessions ahead and even then it is just a general guidelines rather than a whole plot that needs to be followed, which in the past helped me with the flow.

                    So far I really enjoy much more the way disciplines are handled in 2E and I adore the Conditions mechanic.


                    I totally agree here. Disciplines in 2ed are far better then 1ed. Much more characterized and balanced each other.
                    Animalism is finally a good option to go with, so fucking useful since the 1st dot; Nightmare is so evocative and thematic; Vigor, celerity and resilence have now a meaning while in 1ed were a waste of xp.

                    it's a little bit off topic what I'm going to say, so forgive me: I also read the twoV5 masquerade previews and, with some exception, I really dislike how disciplines are designed.

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                    • #11
                      Do NOT treat Vitae-acquisition idly. Think about how much you want to focus on it, and build out from there. Not planning on doing any sort of "uh oh now a Hunter is after you" situation springing from Feeding? Just have players describe what they're doing to feed, tell them how long it takes them (maybe have a roll to find that out). Then just give them the Vitae. Maybe have a few side-NPCs intersect with their feeding - accidentally pick up a plot point at a dive bar, have someone see you while you're stalking the alleyways, etc., just to keep up the illusion that Feeding is relevant.

                      It is AWFUL to spend any real amount of time on Feeding if it's just a hoop you're jumping through.

                      For context, I'm running a long-term campaign that started in 1703 in Kingston. At the time, pretty small place, and for plot reasons they're the only Vampires in town other than this one mid-level antagonist who sticks to the shadows. So far I've let them run rampant when it comes to feeding. There's farmland all over the place -- easy to find sleeping livestock. There's no forensics, security cameras, etc. -- easy to sip off a drink at 4am, or pick up guys at the bar. Pretty much just have them describe what they're doing (especially the Daeva, due to the Curse), but it's specifically easy right now so I don't spend time on it. Next session, I'll spend time on it because Kingston is entering Martial Law. As the game progresses through time, I'll spend time on it in order to highlight how technology is a pain in the see for Vampires.

                      Focusing on Feeding HAS to serve a purpose. If there isn't one, skim over it and get to the good stuff.

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                      • #12
                        This is my big: your players are going to respond to what their characters are good at. Take a look at the traits, this tells you what the players want to do. Try to give them opportunities to shine. Not only will they be more engaged, you're going to be mindful of their experience, and proactive in speaking to each player as a result. You want to make them feel like they made the right choices for their character.

                        Imagine you have a PC living life as a fixer. He's high Manipulation, Streetwise, and Persuasion; he's running Contacts, Status, and Allies. That player wants to throw his weight around and make a name for himself at street level. If I were the you in this case, I'd try to give avenues where a little influence can make a big difference. Use Allies and Status to make a run at the mark's Resources. Shake down an informant, scare off a rival, that sort of thing. If the player isn't recognizing his opportunities, you have people who can highlight them for him.

                        But that's not all. Every character's going to have holes, and that's where players will balk. If the above fixer's coterie-mate is a tertiary Social brawler, he's going to background himself in social situations. Also, zeroed Skills tend to be neglected in the long term, depending on a character's focus (a generalist might blow her first Experiences trying to plug up the gaps in her secondary Skill category, f'rex). Here you have to adjust rewards to get disadvantaged characters' players to jump in. That brawler might let the fixer talk usually, but if there's a Beat or a Willpower at stake (including intentional dramatic failures), you can draw them into the action with that bait.

                        And whenever a character tries to do something new, or unexpected, or something clearly intended to advance the story, reward it. If the brawler sucker punches the fixer's mark to interrupt a grinding interaction, roll with it. If the fixer taps out his Social Merits to put a foe on more level ground, bump up the payoff. If a player beefs it with a bad call, introduce new allies and avenues to victory, or redefine what victory looks like. You are not there to be the brutal arbiter enforcing failure, you are the facilitating player in a game, and your primary stake is in keeping players engaged.


                        LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)

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