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How best to get vampire characters involved in story arcs

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  • How best to get vampire characters involved in story arcs

    Werewolves hunt spirits, Sin Eaters deal with ghosts, Changelings defend themselves against the Fae, fantasy adventurers explore dungeons and fight monsters, 1920s investigators investigate mysteries and die horribly at the hands of Mythos monsters. It's fairly easy to come up with story arcs that such characters will naturally be drawn to. Vampires are proving to be a whole other story. In my game I have a doctor, a bar owner, and zookeeper. I'm struggling to come up with story arcs that suit their skills and abilities, and would be things they'd actually get involved with. I keep coming up with stories that require investigation, stealth, combat, etc, but why would a doctor, bar owner, and zookeeper get involved in, say, a series of murders, or the political rivalry of two elders, etc. They aren't cops, detectives, ex-soldiers trying to live civilian lives, politicians, or anyone who would naturally be drawn to such story arcs. So, how do you get your characters involved in all the crazy events that come up during the course of your chronicle, or how do you come up with story arcs that such characters would be drawn to? i have a few long reaching story arcs that are part of the overall chronicle, but I also want to do a lot of smaller arcs, side arcs, and personal arcs, I'm just struggling to come up with them.

  • #2
    The bar owner is arguably the easiest one to throw headfirst into kindred politics. Drunk humans are easy prey for vampires. Kindred offer favors for feeding privileges. But if too many customers are assaulted or become ill (from blood loss, memory loss, STDs) after a night at the bar, business may start to suffer. So then it comes down to regulating who and how often kindred feed. Or another bar could open up nearby and cut into the owner’s receipts. Or they have become business competition to a harpy or other rack manager.

    The zookeeper’s zoo gets a shit reputation because any endangered species they are licensed to care for and breed end up dead within 6 months. (But the city’s Gangrel dynasty can shapeshift into the most exotic species of any domain within 500 miles.) The zoo bureaucracy burns the last of their social capital to secure a pair of snow leopards. If they screw this up, the zoo will be closed as grants and funds dry up or are withdrawn in favor of supporting other zoos and wildlife programs that are actually successful. The leopard pair arrives just as the Gangrel dynasty’s newest bratling neonate learned Protean 4. Is the zookeeper going to let their livelihood get shut down, try to convince the Gangrel dynasty to choose another animal (which opens up dabbling into animal smuggling or boosting the zoo’s success) or get a city official higher up the food chain to prohibit them from messing with the zoo?

    The doctor is kind of dependent on what sort of doctor they are. Do they see trauma patients or work in the morgue? Well then they’re probably going to come across some obvious Masquerade breach style assaults from time to time. Do they help cover them up, charging favors to either cover them up or to not report them to the kindred sheriff. Maybe they offer concierge services to kindred herds and ghouls to keep regular doctors from asking too many questions about the 65 year old ghoul who still looks like they’re 32. Maybe they provide psychiatric services to kindred or ghouls. Or write prescriptions for various medications to either help or exacerbate vitae addictions.

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    • #3
      These are neonates, yes?
      Given their disparate professions (living professions? Are they actually still on the job?), I would think a good starting place is to sit down with the players and work out some points of tangency -- pre- or post-mortem. Also, have a conversation about what they want to do, and what you would like to do, and come to a consensus about what the game is going to be about. It's okay if they are ill-equipped for the combat you throw at them, so long as the players are cool with it. But if a Gangrel's player really really want to talk with animals (for example) and all the scenes are in Elysium, that player is going to be unhappy.

      It shouldn't be incumbent on you to do all the lifting here.

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      • #4
        Start a session in media-res with one of the characters having drained someone (with a volunteer). Have them work thru the hoops of concealing the body. Trust me, the less you handwave the manslaughter, aside from mere humanity roll, the better.

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        • #5
          I don't know which version you are playing and I'm still familiarizing myself with 2e so take my answer with a grain of salt in that regard.
          That aside, short answer:

          Originally posted by Shadowdragon View Post
          Werewolves hunt spirits, Sin Eaters deal with ghosts, Changelings defend themselves against the Fae, fantasy adventurers explore dungeons and fight monsters, 1920s investigators investigate mysteries and die horribly at the hands of Mythos monsters.
          Vampires hunt humans, and that leads to a whole lot of problems, conflict, drama.

          The long answer:
          The above answers are already pretty good, in addition:
          The bar owner, can he even lay claim to his bar as his domain, maybe it is within the domain of another Vampire already? Closing hour, there is a dead body in one of the toilets, what to do? Or drunk people can be aggressive, how to deal with that (Frenzy: Destruction of important property −1; Insulted by an inferior −2)
          What else, your zookeeper, probably can't work as one anymore, what does she do now, still need money?
          Your doctor, still working as one on night shifts in the ER? Lots of things that provoke frenzy, wounds, drunk aggressive patients. Maybe someone starts to investigate why so many blood packs vanish suddenly.
          Why did their Siers choose their childer in the first place (your players should at least give you something there). From there, what is the relationship to their Siers.
          Not involved in politics? They need to feed, they need to hunt. They better don't do so in someones domain without being allowed to. Now they owe someone, politics right there. It actually takes a lot of effort to not be involved in a citys politics in Vampire. Also do they start play as members of a Covenant? Then that's Politics right there.
          Go ahead and actually play through the night to night lives of your players. How they hunt how they approach their old relations etc. in short how they survive. I personally love that stile of play for oneshots or multishots and a chronicle can easily grow out of the plot hooks that develop during those first sessions. ( Masquerade breaches, feedings gone wrong, the need for a secure heaven

          Also don't be afraid to have them do things they are not good in. Memorable stories come to pass that way( probably nor a good idea for players who approach P&P as games they have to win, but than 1. VtR might be the wrong game 2. they probably wouldn't have created the characters they have)
          You might tell them to spread their skill point in two ways, first to reflect their characters as mortals then to reflect skills they had to develop as kindred. Alternatively be generous with exp(yup full exp not just beats for 2e) you give them in the first sessions that they can only spend on skills they had to use and in which the are very bad at( 0 or maybe 1 point in) to reflect the necessity to rapidly develop new skills to survive under the conditions their new existence forces upon them.

          And last of all ask them what interests them in playing the game and how they would like to explore that with their characters. Think/Talk about, with your players, why you want to play Vampire in the first place.
          Or tell them what kind of chronicle you want to run, if they are interested in that sort of chronicle and then create characters with them that would suit the chronicle better. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries for your players and telling them: this is the kind of chronicle I want to run, please create character for that.

          So lengthy answer, hope something in there can help you^^

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          • #6
            Originally posted by nobby View Post
            And last of all ask them what interests them in playing the game and how they would like to explore that with their characters. Think/Talk about, with your players, why you want to play Vampire in the first place.
            Or tell them what kind of chronicle you want to run, if they are interested in that sort of chronicle and then create characters with them that would suit the chronicle better. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries for your players and telling them: this is the kind of chronicle I want to run, please create character for that.
            I can't say it better than that. Although I would add, if you want to run a game that the players are interested in, but the characters are not statted for, there's a lot of ways to hook them into politics or investigations. Again, you don't want to force the players, but having a PC who doesn't know the first thing about being social rise to princedom might make for an interesting story of growth. Like a PC who isn't into investigations have one of their touchstones get hurt by a hunter or something supernatural, and seek to investigate and avenge the injury (I wouldn't kill the touchstone unless the PC did something really bad or the player wanted to do that kind of plot). You could have a sire say "(Investigate this/stop this hunter/get me this artifact) because (you owe me for the embrace/I can do bad things to you/you want me to teach you more disciplines)." Again, based on what everyone involved wants.


            You can also play with their mortal ties. The first reply had some good ideas for if they're still pretending to be mortals... here's a few if they're not.

            If any of the pcs vanished after their embrace, there's likely a police investigation. This can be in the form of a detective trying to find them (or their killer) or someone facing jail time (or execution) for the PCs disappearance. The PC knows the accused is innocent, but there are complications. Especially if they were embrace a decade or two ago. Even a detective dusting off a cold-case could be interesting. And don't forget all the PCs likely had/have family, coworkers, friends, etc...

            Not every player would care, but the announcement that a PCs widow/widower is getting remarried can cause some interesting scenes. Or, if the PCs are older, maybe their mortal son/daughter is marrying someone the PC knows is a ghoul/hunter/Daeva. You can play that for drama or horror.

            If the zookeeper retired after his embrace, in addition to coworkers take a look at some long-lived animals. A parrot that the PC tended to from an egg for 30 years who is dying might be an ideal animal ghoul (or again, played for drama). What if the replacement zookeeper is abusing some of the PCs beloved animals? What if said replacement zookeeper is the ghoul of a rival gangrel or related to another PC? Or a hunter?

            If the doctor PC hasn't practiced in 50 years, a young doctor might decide to look into some of the research the pc was involved in. Maybe said doctor's son has a specific rare malady that the PC had treated once. Or, worse, this young doctor knows that ghouling will cure their son, and suspects why the PC vanished. That last one can work with any of the PCs.

            As an ex-barkeep, said PC might have old time friends from his time listening to their issues. Or a new bartender might be searching for a long lost drink recipe said PC invented. Also, he could be attached to the building itself. If the bar was going to be shut down or got an owner who was running it into the ground, the PC might want to intervene. 1e had a bit on mandragora (ghouled plants) and distilling vampiric wine from them. Another vampire might start ghouling the bartenders as the PCs old bar in an effort to find a ghoul to tend said garden/mix up proper vampiric spirits.


            Something I used once, since all PCs face hunters at some point:
            I created a group of hunters who were all scarred by previous interactions with the city's other kindred. One of the PCs actually ended up leading them. (Although, orchestrating the pcs and the hunters talking was difficult. I got lucky in that the PC in question chose to investigate who was hunting him.) This lead to the investigation of the really low humanity vampires in the city, as well as seeking to help the hunters recover. It gave the PCs some mortal allies who were story hooks for later and a bit more of a direction.
            For your group, you could try that with the barkeep noticing said hunters in his bar, and realizing what they're doing before they recognize him as a vampire. This group had a psychic who could talk to rats, who would make a good replacement zookeeper/understudy. Actually, running into these hunters in their day-jobs would also work. (The new nurse is missing an eye. If pressed, she says she carved it out to break a dominate command. Not that she understands what happened.)

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            • #7
              Vampires in their supernatural state are driven by the need to eat constantly and seek safety. These factors aid the GM by providing a few obvious levers to pull on--anything that challenges the factors that provide consistent food and safety.

              Vampires as ex-humans have all the motivations and issues that humans do, who are hiding unpleasant and illegal secrets. Within vampiric society ALL members have unpleasant and illegal secrets, which both creates incentives for cooperation and vulnerabilities for exploitation.

              Further, vampires take the territorial impulses of humans and amp them to 11, such that if it were possible a given vampire would feel most comfortable claiming far more territory than they need for feeding, and pushing all others far, far away. Think about it this way: each vamp a king, shoving aside weaker kings until they are emperor of all the world--most food, most safe. Most unlikely, of course, but that's the tension.

              The human desires that vampires carry also express themselves in strange ways since the vamps themselves are to some extent freed from human norms of social expression. If you constantly engage in cannibalism, what do you care about social custom, tradition, law and morality? What is it that you *won't* do to ensure you get food and safety? What *won't* you do to explore "freedom" in your state? --Answer those questions and you know what the character loves. What they love becomes a lever for conflict.

              Stepping back a bit, each vampire has something massive in their background that helps define who they are: their sire and embrace. They were "picked" for embrace for some reason--perhaps pity in a moment of weakness, perhaps according to plan, perhaps according to sympathy. Their sire holds responsibility for them, both socially and in fact through the Blood. *Why* they are so is a question that any vampire should want to answer. Why are they not dead, for example? Answer that why and you have levers to pull.

              More broadly, however, you have a meta-question to answer of what ties the characters together such that they make a group. Otherwise, you're telling the story of the city/region in which the characters live, and not the characters themselves as a collective; this is harder, as it involves constantly separated parties. One of the things you can do in this instance, however, is put the onus on the players: define how you are connected to each of the others, your touchstones and your sire. Define what you like and dislike about each person and what you want from them and don't want to give them.

              This could be a worksheet or a brainstorming conversation, but it's useful setup if you want to move beyond "you meet in a tavern."

              --Khanwulf

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