Thursday, 29 July 2010

A World of Darkness

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A World of Darkness ??
The Terrifying Tale of James Magnus

Monday 2nd of August, 8:30 pm - Midnight

Monday, 19 July 2010

Communication Frequencies

?????? ?? ??This has all the chance of becoming a rant. But I will try and stay on topic. It's all about communication.So why this topic. I will get to that as examples. ???? ?? ??
???? ?? ??Roleplay games are a form of communication between a group of friends. The thing being communicated is fun, unity and of course the story which is what the game is. But of course things are never perfect. Things can fall apart and break. And it is this that I have experienced first hand, and very recently. ???? ?? ??
???? ?? ??
???? ?? ??For a roleplay game troupe to survive there must be communication. Communication between the players and the storyteller. It is two way street and has to be respected. We need this communication so that everyone is one the same page. We use it to understand what each individual wants to get out the game and to learn why things are not quite working/what is working and if there are any issues that need to be worked around.
???? ?? ??The first thing for a rpg troupe that must be communicated is whether or not the group gets along. This may not be obvious at first, but it should never be held back. Keeping quite about things like this can lead to a very cancerous atmosphere in the gaming group where the energy is sapped away and people start looking for excuses for not showing up. It is only by finding out about this issue that it can be addressed and remedied in what ever manner suitable for the group. You can't be afraid of hurting someone's feelings when the entire troupe is at stake (this is an issue I will return to a lot).

???? ?? ??Next up is the game. It is important that everyone has an idea about what everyone wants to get out of the game. You can't run a game that no one wants to play. Equally players can't play characters in a manner that is harmful to the game experience of the rest of the troupe. It is by communication that the desires of all troupe members can be ascertained and a balance can be met. Again, don't be afraid that you are going to hurt someone's feelings. Better to nip this in the bud now than to let it fester through 5 gaming sessions. In fact a persons expectations of a game can change over the lifetime of the game and it is important that this too is communicated.

???? ?? ??Next, the players are struggling. So the game is basically what everyone wants to play. However, along the line it has got too difficult for the players to comprehend. They feel like they are lost, trapped, and basically have no control over the game. In that case it is important to make that known to the storyteller. Things can be easily tweaked and adjusted to make the game experience more fun and less confusing. Once more it is better to say these things rather than be afraid that the storyteller will take offence.

???? ?? ??Next, Characters. Now I have come up against this a few times. And really I find the excuses for not doing so weak. But here goes. Playing in a roleplay game that is story (and thus character) drive, rather than dice roll driven, requires a certain amount of player commitment. You have a certain idea for a character you want to play? Fine, great. But please, please, please write out some form of background for them. Communicate the character concept, put the effort in. Otherwise, why bother? The game and the setting are not just the sole responsibility of the storyteller.

???? ?? ??Finally, and this is a big one relating to most of the above. If things are really not going well outside of game then just speak up, tell the person running the game and things will be fine. Simply not turning up, and not giving enough notice is plain rude! Now sometimes this is not always possible, but those times are rare. In this day and age a simple phone call and text to say you can't make it are easy. However, it is a bad habit to do this always on the day of the game, a few hours before. A day or so before means the person running the game can have time to reschedule things.

???? ?? ??Now am I going to rant about my more personal experiences of any the above? No. Not yet. But that doesn't mean I am happy currently with certain things, and feel very annoyed. Simple good manners are hard to come by these days it seems.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Changeling: The Lost - Venice: Broken Mask, Shattered Dreams - Motleys of Venice


The Harlequins of Carnelian


The Hundred Masks is not the only motley devoted to pleasure. There are others, and in the Court of Carnival they are collectively known as ‘Stocking Groups’, after the term used for those groups of men that would compete in the organization of the festivities for Carnival.

The Harlequins of Carnelian is led by the self titled Count Carnelian, the city Columbine, and one of those officially tasked with organising the balls and parties of the Freehold. His motley are equally devoted to the task and takes the role seriously and does not appreciate the interference by those of the House of Spring who have not been appointed to the task by the Doge.

Where the parties of the Hundred Masks are decandent affairs, those of Carnelian are more formal, and follow the etiquette of the Venetian courts of old.

The Keepers of the Imaginarium

The Imaginarium, as they are known are a fellow Stocking gang of the Harlequins. They have a friendly rivalry and follow the laws of Carnival closely. The Imaginarium, led by the Columbina, Silver Heart, are devoted to their art of entertainment, and claim one of the smaller theaters as their territory. However, they are also known for travelling to other Freeholds in the region to spread the word of Carnival.

The majority of their entertainment takes the form of morality plays, designed to let the audience realise their own fears and desires, and embrace their lost humanity.

The Imaginarium takes their work seriously and takes great offence to those that playgerize their work or use their shows as opportunities for other actions that the Imaginarium has no interest in.

Changeling: The Lost - Venice: Broken Mask, Shattered Dreams - The Freehold of Venice




The Freehold of Venice


The Freehold of Venice has been held by the Court of Carnival for many centuries. All that time countless Doges have held office. Some were granted the position by the departing Doge, others were simply bestowed the seat upon the death of the last Doge. The identity of the Doge has always been one of the greatest mysteries of the city. Every time a new Doge is appointed he is bound to keep that identity secret or he will die and the title is then past on. Meanwhile the old Doge slips back into his old life as if he was never gone. Gaps in details are filled in, and all memory of his time as Doge is removed. The only tie between the Doges of the Court of Carnival is the Book of the Long Masquerade, a journal detailing the history and lore of the Freehold.

The role of the Doge is that of arbiter and chairman. He is the head of the freehold but not a despot, his rule must first pass the approval of the Dukes of the Seasonal Houses. Only in times of great need can the Doge rule without question, but even that must be agreed upon by the heads of the Seasonal Houses of Venice. The Doge authorizes new laws for the Freehold, acts as the final judge of tribunals, and acts as the commander of arms when war is declared.

The Doge also plays a major role in the social aspect of the freehold, holding court and listening to the needs of his subjects. Thus the Doge performs an important part in the freehold, acting as counsellor and master of rites.

The Glamour that acts upon the Doge ensures that in the identity of the Doge is a secret and his human face is concealed when in court. Outside of his duties as Doge, the Doge is cannot reveal his title, and the magic associated with the title is not revealed. For all intents and purposes the Doge is just like any other changeling.

The Glamour associated with the title of Doge is not just limited to the Doge, but extends to all of those within court. When entering the official court of the Doge all other changelings have their mien banished and their image is concealed by a mask. The Pact of Carnival allows for all changelings to associate with each others as equals at the price of not knowing whom they are with. This curious effect means that only changelings that enter court together are aware of which mask that they each wear. For others that arrive at the court changelings must ask for their identity. Thus it is completely possible for changelings to remain anonymous in court, free to speak their mind to all others. Such a state of affairs means that concerns can be openly expressed without fear of repercussions. But it also means that rumour and conspiracy is rife, and paranoia reigns as changelings try to ensure that they are not identified and singled out for their views and actions. But this maddening court of intrigue, backstabbing and whispers is the price paid for their freedom. The Pact of Carnival gives the Lost of the city shelter from the Gentry. Carnival works its Glamour upon all members of the freehold, hiding their mien from the Gentry so that they appear as just mortals. This does not stop the True Fae however, it is just another mask and like all masks they can be looked past.

The most notable Hollow of the Court of Carnival is associated with the Ca’ P├ęsaro, the museum for oriental and modern arts. This stone-clad gothic building is covered in gruesome heads.

The current Doge is theorized to have been in power for the last decade at least. His rule has been characterized by his balance between tough justice and light handed rule. Balls and parties are allowed at all times but in the shadows his agents are constantly on the look out for loyalist, privateers, Gentry and militia. Within court the Doge has been attacked openly for not being more proactive, and has gained the hatred and distrust of those within the Summer and Spring house. This revulsion has been born out of the disgust at the Court of the Carnival preventing seasonal rule, but also the Doge clamping down on those parties and gatherings that have gotten out of hand, or the more militant Summer courtiers who think the Doge is not doing enough to actively hunt those who would bring down the freehold.

The Doge appears in court as dressed much like a prince or lord would during the 18th century. His attire is white and gold, with an opulent coat, buckled shoes and powdered wig. His mask fully conceals his face and is a shifting mask of emotions.

The Doge does not work in a vacuum, and has a number of aides that are known within Court. The Pact of Carnival allows for the changeling of the city to come to court and act anonymously, but there are those changelings of the court who are identifiable, at least within court. Outside of court their it is up to these changelings to reveal their title.

The seneschal of the Doge is the Bauta. This changeling is keeping track of the details of the city, the funds that are kept by the Doge, files on the threats to the Freehold, working with the Dukes of the Seasonal Houses to distribute titles and duties, maintaining the location of Freehold commons, safe houses and hollows.

Of all the members of the Court of Carnival the seneschal is possibly the most important role but also once of the most disrespected positions within the Freehold. Many of the House of Autumn feel that the seneschal is intruding on their responsibilities, while the House of Summer and Spring see the seneschal as a puppet of the Doge.

The Bauta appears in court in robes almost opulent as the Doge, and his mask is the Bauta mask. The Bauta mask is a full face mask but with an angular pronounced jaw that disguises the mouth. The mask is covered in gilding and ornate.

The role of Volto is the official peacekeeper of the city. Dressed in the Volto mask, similar to the Bauta but in pure black, but worn with a tricorn and a cloak. The Volto acts as both investigator and executioner, and works in unison with those defenders of the Freehold from the Seasonal Houses. Thus the Volto acts as leader and commander of these militant changelings, but this an uneasy alliance that leads to conflicts of interest. Of all the positions with the city the identity of the Volto is well known to all changelings in the Freehold.

The Larva appears similar to the Volto, however with a mask of pure white. The Larva is the official ghost hunter of the Freehold. Such a position is required when the city has such a deep and troubled history. Thus the Larva is normally associated with the Autumn and Winter Seasonal Houses. The other main duty of the Larva is that of assassin. Whenever things must be done quietly then the Larva is the one that is called upon by the Doge. This means, unlike the Volto, the Larva operates in complete secrecy.

Servetta Muta is always a female changeling and dressed in opulent robes and a black oval mask that has only slits for eyes. The wearer must bite down onto a bit so that the mask is held against the face. Thus the role of the Servetta Muta is that of a confessor, the Lost of the Freehold can reveal their sins and troubles to her without the fear that she will reveal these secrets to others, such is the Pact with Carnival that is made by the Servetta Muta. Over the centuries others have tried to pervert this position, but before long there is a new Servetta Muta, a changeling is missing and the Larva is cleaning his blades.

The Columbine and Columbina are two changelings who are considered the most beautiful within the Freehold. The Columbino masks are the classic half masks, concealing just the eyes and nose leaving the lower portion of the face exposed. The masks are very ornate and so are the costumes that the courtiers wear. These two changelings are in charge of organizing the balls and parties of the Freehold, gifted in the performing arts, and also are notorious for their numerous and frequent sexual encounters at these parties.

The final official position within the Court of Carnival is the Medico della Peste, or Plague Doctor. This changeling is dressed in the traditional black robes and wide brimmed, with a mask that covers the entire face. The mask features small eye slits covered in clear stones, and is completely white. The main feature is the grim looking curved wide beak. This beak, during the Venetian plagues, was designed so that it could be stuffed with herbs and spices that would prevent the doctor from breathing in the plague.

The Medico della Peste is the Freehold physician, but also acts as intermediatory between the Freehold and the Vampire and sorcerers that live within the bounds of Venice and the Venetian mainland. Other than the Larva and Volto, the Medico della Peste is one of the most feared and respected changelings in the Freehold, and on rare occasions changelings that have been brought in for minor aliments have disappeared without trace.

The Mantle of Carnival


The Court of Carnival, the Thousand Masks, the Quicksilver Court, the court of revelry and laughter.

Some wish to hide, some wish to loses themselves to their desires, others give into their rage, and others wish to cause fear. But the court of Carnival is something else. It is farewell to the flesh, to let go of themselves and be lost within the festival of Carnival. If they are willing to make the sacrifice the Carnival offers safety, pleasure, mystery, magic, secrecy and power. The ultimate message of Carnival is one of festival, and showing that the Lost can turn the tables on the Gentry. Of course the question is when Carnival will come seeking to collect their debts.

For the above reasons the Court of Carnival is eclectic, maddening, and colourful, attracting changeling from all walks of life. But typically the court attracts those changelings that have a taste for politics, intrigue, revelry and magic, all at once. They are all self styled princes of Faerie. But of course this intense mix is difficult for many changeling to accommodate, and often courtiers can be driven to insanity but the pressures of Carnival. But this is the cost of the power that comes from the court.

Of course the most important rituals of the court focus on the period of Carnival. Starting on the 26th of December the Doge, along with a representative of the House of Winter, lead the celebration of the start of Carnival. Masks are ritually burnt, signifying the start of the period of renewal. But first they must give up their past year and confide to Carnival their sins. The real celebrations do not begin until two weeks before Fat Tuesday, and on the Sunday at the start of this period the Doge elects the Carnival Prince and Princess. These two lead the balls and parties and act as a focus for the Freeholds celebrations, culminating in their ceremonial marriage on Fat Tuesday. This marriage sees a grand ball and Lost from other Freeholds beyond Venice are invited to join in the celebration.

The following day, Ash Wednesday, marks the start of Lent, and so the changelings of the Court of Carnival focus intently on their purpose and duties for the following year.

For the remainder of the year the Court is devoted to secrecy and study, defending, the Freehold and rooting out dangers within the city.

The heraldry of the Court is a strange mix. It is the clear blue skies over the Adriatic in February, the bracing sea breeze, the smell of mulled wine, the sparkle of light of the crests of waves, the taste of hot chocolate, the sound laughter, the ringing of church bells, masks, tricorn hats, cats, lions, violins, gondola, mercury, salt, a sense of disorientation and loss of direction.

The mantle of Carnival is somewhat a mix of all others. The Mantle gives a sense of Carnival as an overload of the sense as a means to hide the changeling. At Mantle ● to ●●● the mien of the changeling is confusing and sensual as the observer is assaulted by the smells and tastes of Carnival. When invoking a contract laughter may be heard or a cold wind blows. At Mantle ●●●●+ the mien of a Carnival courtier is even more intense as dimensions are confused, directions twisted, spices can be smelled in the air and laughter assaults the ears of the observer.

At Mantle ●+ a Carnival courtier become harder to spot and so those actively seeking the changeling have a -1 die penalty to their appropriate search skill (Wits + Composure or Wits + Skill) roll. At Mantle ●●●+ the changeling becomes even more masked by Carnival, their mien is diminished and they gain a +1 dice bonus to all ssubterfuge. At Mantle ●●●●● the previous penalties and bonus at previous levels increase by one. Thus their stealth/subterfuge rolls are increased by +2, and a -2 penalty to those seeking the changeling.

The emotion tied to the Court of Carnival is Carnival itself. Changeling harvest the Glamour associated with festivity, celebrations, grand balls, drunken parties. This emotion is brought to the fore in others as a way of once more feeling what was stolen from them by the Gentry. Only by seeking out Carnival can the Court feel as though it has turned the tables on their debauched Keepers, stealing back their old lives and the magic of Faerie. But also Carnival means acknowledging that all great things come at a great price, that their freedom and powers come with strings attached. It is only when this is acknowledged, that a changeling is free to celebrate his freedom, knowing what it cost to regain it.

The Court holds certain stereotypical views of the other courts.

Spring Court: The may indulge in their passions, but they lose themselves to easily to their desire and forget to celebrate all other aspects of life.

Summer Court: They may win the war but they never take the time to rejoice in the achievements. No instead they just seek out more war, more bloodshed.

Autumn Court: They may try to steal the magic of Faerie, and use such things for their own war, to make the Gentry fear their own tools, but they do not take the time to enjoy the pleasures that it can bring. Celebrate the world that it reveals. But always know that all gifts come with a price.

Winter Court: You can hide but Carnival will always come, always seeking to take what is owed, that debt. But also, no matter how the Winter Court act, they cannot deny that they have succeeded in escaping the Gentry, and not celebrating such an achievement is a terrible thing as then you have no drive to achieve greater things.

End of an Era / Motleys of Venice




So the news is that the Mage Chronicler's guide is the last for Mage the Awakening, and in fact just the first of the final books for the New World of Darkness line. It's all going out with, not a bang, but a sense of completeness. Most of the final books for each line present a number of 'Endgame' scenarios, but also ways to tweak the setting. So really the end is just a way to finally present everything the game will ever need for it to continue on it's own.

I guess the question is what next? What will White Wolf bring out in order to move itself even further from it's established roots?

In my own gaming related stuff I will start to put up here descriptions for motleys of changelings I am using in my Venice game. Hopefully there will be some cool ideas there for you guys to latch onto.


Mascherari - The Motleys of Venice


The term Mascherari was the name used by the mask making guilds of Venice. In modern times this term is now used by the Lost when referring to the motleys of the city. However this term has also been adopted by the groups of the Bound that haunt the city.

The Silk Road Pirates


The Silk Road Pirates are less pirates but more like explorers. The Hedge is indeed strange and difficult to navigate, but is even more confusing when the Hedge is accessed when upon water. The clear and crisp waters of the Venetian Lagoon give way to the stinking marshes and bogs of the Hedge. A twisting, winding maze of waterways and sodden islands where strange beasts lurk in the shadows amongst the thorny undergrowth. This landscape can be constantly shifting, but some trods exist having been cut through the water to form canals that have walls of cruel vines.

The Silk Road Pirates make it their job to map these watery parts of the Hedge, to discover the lost islands of Venice that have been consumed by Faerie, to uncover treasure that has been lost within the misty networks of canals and shallows.

This task is not easy and requires changelings of great Clarity so that they are capable of perceiving the boundaries between our world and the Hedge, and to spot the signs of Hobgoblins, Gentry and potential Hollows and trods.

Hundred Masks


The Hundred Masks is a group of Spring courtiers. They are devoted to the task of organizing the decadent balls that the Lost attend. The success of the balls is a sign of their own prestige and dominance within the politics of the Freehold. Their parties are extravagant affairs and a chance to upstage all the other Houses and the Court of Carinval. For this reason they are often at odds with the Columbine and Columbina.

In order to hold their parties the Hundred Masks have a hold over club and bar owners (though there are not many clubs in Venice itself) and the owners of some of the palaces in Venice. The Hundred Masks also have contacts with drug dealers, buying mundane drugs and selling their glamour infused, mystic, narcotics.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Vampire

Vampire: The Endless Waltz

Episode 7: Knight of the Long Knives ??? Part 1

Following the events of the previous night, Kane awoke to find himself in the bathtub. His clothes were still ruined from where he had been staked and he was hungry. Very hungry. There was a knock at the bathroom door and he heard Karl, Dimitri???s ghoul, ask if it was OK to come in. Kane get his Beast in check, and allowed Karl to come in, who told Kane that Dimitri had asked him to feed Kane so that he would be sated until the herd they had called arrived.

Meanwhile Thessaly was once more at her desk in the icy cold of her run down house in Salford. She was trying to make some sense of the documents she had recovered from the asylum. Just what the hell were they researching? What were they testing on the patient there? And why the hell were the Ordo Dracul there? She had many questions.

There was a knock at the door, and Thessaly felt her Beast squirm. Whoever was there was powerful. And right now was not the best time to be spotted with stolen documents. It could even be the Ordo Dracul. Thessaly quickly moved to hide in one of the cupboards and listen out. There was another rapping at the door and she heard a familiar voice as the door open. It was Dr Auldwyn. The one person she really didn???t want to see.

She headed up stairs and greeted the Dr. He was dressed in his typical tweed suit and bow tie, and took out a pocket handkerchief and dusted a chair off before sitting. He asked Thessaly what happened at the asylum, asking why she had left and who had broken in. He also asked about the missing documents. Thessaly lied, saying that she didn???t know where the documents were, and that they more than likely were with those who broke in. She told him of the Ordo Dracul and of Lauren Esten, who Hugo remembered was in fact being hunted for by the Myrmidon. In light of all this he asked Thessaly to keep quiet about the break in, and that he would call on her services again considering she had left her post at the asylum.

Kane, now having fed and healed a little, took a call from the Constable, Ihram. They needed his presence at a house in the suburbs. The address was the same one he had in the message from his sister.

Arriving at the house, with Dimitri who had driven them there in his Porsche, they saw that the house was in fact a police crime scene. At the front door was Ihram, and it was simple to presume that the officers working the case were ghouls.

Going into the house with Ihram, Kane and Dimitri were hit by the stench of blood. The house was a squat. It was filled with junk and rubbish. But worse yet was the kitchen. Sat in a chair, bloodied and bruised and pale and gagged, was the body of Kane???s sister. She had been drained of blood from multiple cuts. But no bite marks. It was a shocking scene to see her like this in such a terrible place. Even Dimitri was disturbed by the scene.

But there was more. Ihram gave Kane a portable DVD player and four tarot cards. The cards were ???The Final Judgement???, ???The Four of Cups???, ???The Devil??? and ???Temperance???. They then watched the DVD. On it they saw Kane???s sister, alive, struggling with her bonds as a knife could be seen in shot. There was a voice and it said;

???You???ve gambled with life now twice. First you gamble as mortals. You were born. Then you gambled again and were reborn. And now you keep on gambling. Every day the world has the odds stacked against you. And now you have gambled against the odds and lost. Give up. Give up your crusade, give up on the election, pull the plug on it, stop gambling with more that you can afford. Admit to all that you have lost. That, or next time you come to the table make sure you have a full house or a royal flush. Or maybe play with a different deck.???

??It was Ihram who was also able to answer Kane???s mystery regarding the vampire who he rescued from the hunters. Apparently she is the first vampire in some time to bear a symbol that has only been seen on members of the Brood. Ihram suggested that the coterie be careful and on the look out for these vampires, as the Brood is an even greater threat to the city and had only just been eliminated from city 5 years ago. Taking the cards, the DVD and one of the knives used to kill his sister, Kane left, shifting form and flew to Thessaly???s house. Dimitri left with little else to left to follow up clues on Zahred Zilber at his Ascension Club. Dimitri was hoping that he may get a chance to speak to Zahred Zilber; however, this did not happen. But in the heaving club Dimitri did spot someone go into the VIP area with a mortal. It was Lauren Esten. Rather than alert her Dimitri called his sire, Spokesman Rain.

??

Almost two weeks pass, and on Friday the 17th of December the coterie is gathered again by Patrick Falken. In the last two weeks Thessaly had made some progress with researching the history of the Kitab Si???lat. Kane had been looking for more clues to the death of his sister.

Patrick Falken thanked the coterie for their service, and that he only one more thing to ask of them. He asked them all of their opinion of the election and if they believed that he would win the election. He then asked if there is anything that they truly wish to have. Kane of course wanted more influence within the Carthians and a chance to find his sister???s killer. Dimitri asked for more influence within the Carthians and control of the Ascension Club (which had been taken by the Myrmidon) while Thessaly wanted more guarantees for the Circle of the Crone and access to any texts that may be of use to her grandsire.

Patrick Falken explained the election process. He told them of the Rite of the Puppet King. This ritual of blood magic tied would bind the election ballot box to all those who were taking part in the election. If the ballot box is tampered after the ritual and before the count then all of those taking part in the election would feel it. However, there is another lesser known ritual that can be used on the ballot papers, called the Rite of the Thousand Fangs. This ritual would be able to alter the vote on the ballot papers. It would be this ritual that Patrick Falken would have used on the ballot papers. But for this to work he needs the help of Thessaly, and also the entire coteries cooperation.

The coterie deliberated and concluded that they would help fix the election for Patrick, in exchange for the things he promised.

Patrick gave them the
location of the printers where the ballot papers were being prepared. The election would take place on the 21st of December, the longest night. So the coterie had only 4 days to act. However, that night would not be one as they had a prior engagement with the Circle of the Crone. That night was the night of the Winnowing ritual.

Driving up to a farm on the hills about Manchester the coterie could see the flames from numerous torches and a bonfire that illuminated the gathering. The nearby field was filled with vehicles, while the farm yard had been taken over by the Acolytes and turned into a small market. There were numerous wares on sale, animals, herbs and those Acolytes who are selling their services.

Thessaly???s sire, Adam, greets the coterie, and thanks Dimitri and Kane for coming and they are honoured guests. He asks that they wait, and perhaps try the blood that has been provided, while he and Thessaly speak to Magus Gregor.

In the warm of the kitchen of the farm house Magus Gregor spoke to Thessaly with regard to her sacrifice to the gods in penitence for her act of diableri. Thessaly had agreed to embrace another, so that she could understand the cycle of life and death better and bring another into the fold. For this Thessaly had chosen someone to embrace, a young man called Eric who was part of her mortal coven. Thessaly had chosen him as he wasn???t that knowledgeable of actual magic, making him the perfect student and easy to manipulate. Eric had been brought to the farm with the coterie, but under the pretention that it was some form of Wiccan festival.

The main event of the Winnowing was the Four Seasons, a play that demonstrated to the Acolytes the cycle of life and the roles of the Acolytes within it and within the covenant. On stage masked Acolytes performed the play and human sacrifices were brought out. There was blood and fire and screams, and Thessaly had to restrain Eric.

??

Thursday, 8 July 2010

End of an Era / Motleys of Venice

??

??
???? ?? ??So the news is that the Mage Chronicler's guide is the last for Mage the Awakening, and in fact just the first of the final books for the New World of Darkness line. It's all going out with, not a bang, but a sense of completeness. Most of the final books for each line present a number of 'Endgame' scenarios, but also ways to tweak the setting. So really the end is just a way to finally present everything the game will ever need for it to continue on it's own.

???? ?? ??I guess the question is what next? What will White Wolf bring out in order to move itself even further from it's established roots?

???? ?? ??In my own gaming related stuff I will start to put up here descriptions for motleys of changelings I am using in my Venice game. Hopefully there will be some cool ideas there for you guys to latch onto.

Mascherari - The Motleys of Venice

The term Mascherari was the name used by the mask making guilds of Venice. In modern times this term is now used by the Lost when referring to the motleys of the city. However this term has also been adopted by the groups of the Bound that haunt the city.

The Silk Road Pirates

The Silk Road Pirates are less pirates but more like explorers. The Hedge is indeed strange and difficult to navigate, but is even more confusing when the Hedge is accessed when upon water. The clear and crisp waters of the Venetian Lagoon give way to the stinking marshes and bogs of the Hedge. A twisting, winding maze of waterways and sodden islands where strange beasts lurk in the shadows amongst the thorny undergrowth. This landscape can be constantly shifting, but some trods exist having been cut through the water to form canals that have walls of cruel vines.

The Silk Road Pirates make it their job to map these watery parts of the Hedge, to discover the lost islands of Venice that have been consumed by Faerie, to uncover treasure that has been lost within the misty networks of canals and shallows.

This task is not easy and requires changelings of great Clarity so that they are capable of perceiving the boundaries between our world and the Hedge, and to spot the signs of Hobgoblins, Gentry and potential Hollows and trods.

??

Hundred Masks

The Hundred Masks is a group of Spring courtiers. They are devoted to the task of organizing the decadent balls that the Lost attend. The success of the balls is a sign of their own prestige and dominance within the politics of the Freehold. Their parties are extravagant affairs and a chance to upstage all the other Houses and the Court of Carinval. For this reason they are often at odds with the Columbine and Columbina.

In order to hold their parties the Hundred Masks have a hold over club and bar owners (though there are not many clubs in Venice itself) and the owners of some of the palaces in Venice. The Hundred Masks also have contacts with drug dealers, buying mundane drugs and selling their glamour infused, mystic, narcotics.

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Monday, 5 July 2010

Masquerade to Requiem

???? ?? ??So the third rpg that I ever bought and ran was Vampire: the Masquerade 2nd Edition Revised. It was a revelation to me. Buffy was on TV and Angel had also just started to be shown. I had also just seen the first Blade film. So really the right mix for a geeky 16 year old with goth inclination. Previously I had run Star Wars 2nd Edition revised and D&D Classic 18th edition.

???? ?? ??Vampire blew my mind. First up the ease of the system, compared to D&D, and the similarity to West End Games D6 system. But really it was the setting. Centuries old conspiracies, various variations of undead, and of course all this wrapped up in a dark modern setting. I was hooked.

???? ?? Now lets be honest here. The first Vampire chronicle I ran was filled with cliches. Oh man where to begin. It was set in San Francisco, it played up to every clan stereotype going. There was some Mayan temple. Some form of blood demon. Hey I was 16! I'm allowed blood demons froma Mayan temple near the Golden Gate Bridge!

???? ?? When I finished playing Vampire I started on Mage: the Ascension, and by this point I had gotten out of my system all the typical tropes. Thank the gods! But that is not to say that I forgot about Vampire. I now wanted to run the game set in the UK. And I was also battling the issue of Clan vs Camarilla. I was trying to figure out why the hell a vampire would really always follow the line set by the Clan. Surely the needs of the Camarilla were more important. I was really beginning the question the very heart and soul of the political setup of the game, and the way it had been presented. I wanted more conflict, but my understanding of these things was limited. I guess that is where mage came in with the Traditions and sub Traditions and crafts. I realised that this type of political landscape is what I need in Vampire.

???? ?? ??Then I picked up the Player's Handbook and in there was absolute gold. A section dealt with Clans and it started along the lines of 'You can choose your friends, and not your family'. I think it even gave an example. Such as 'It is the will of Clan Brujah' and the response being 'Yeah what ever. Fuck off!'

???? ?? ??So while I cooked the setting for Vampire Manchester (my Mage chronicle taking place in that setting), and started to think more and more about factions, and factions within factions.

???? ?? ??And then something happened. Gehenna and Vampire: the Requiem.

???? ?? Requiem had me sold with just four things. More factions, less clans, clan bloodlines, no more generation. Finally a setting could be a balance of all these Covenants, and without any being considered the bad guys (something I love hate about Mage: the Ascension by the way). With less Clans clan actually becomes more important as they become larger power blocks, and well formed bloodline rules made bloodlines respected, and feared, rarities.

???? ?? So without much effort my Vampire: Masquerade Manchester setting became a Requiem setting.

???? ??I'm now going to summarise what I like about what Requiem changed.

  • Gothic Punk no more - It was fun to begin with but after a while there is only so much you can take. The mood of the game becomes too much of a joke. Requiem's Modern Gothic better reflects the world we live in now. It's like the difference between watching Batman (Tim Burton), and The Dark Knight (Chris Nolan). Both great but one is more relevant to our times.
  • Covenants - OK I love the Camarilla. I love the Sabbat. But there comes a time where being on one side or the other becomes tiring. The way Requiem did away with that and allowed for cities to be a fine balance of power between 5 (or more) groups, while removing the idea of cities being constantly under siege/at war, made the issues for each city individual. So what if two cities have both got Invictus Princes. The problems facing each are different. One may have a Carthian uprising to deal with while the other in fact needs his Carthian allies, and Lancea Sanctum allies, and Crone allies, and Ordo Dracul allies, to defeat an incursion of VII. In one fell swoop Covenants redrew the scale of the game to local politics, where being a member of a Covenant doesn't mean you have immediate allies half a world away.
  • Clans - Choosing clans was a bitch. So many choices made character generation tiresome. Now you know what you are getting when a player says, 'I'm a Gangrel', is a particular type of vampire. Unlike when a player would being choosing between the quite similar Brujah and Gangrel of Masquerade. But with small numbers of clans comes better roleplaying. Now you cannot just assume all Gangrel are exactly the same. You are encouraged to break the mould and bring something new to the Clan.
  • ??Bloodline rules - Bloodlines are something a player can in fact create or join. Plus a Bloodline is something that can be emphasized in game as part of a character's heritage. In Masquerade the amount of Clans would make Bloodlines seem unimportant.
  • Generation gone - Generation was great. It gave a sense of lineage (some thing that the importance of bloodlines reinstalls). But it also made players slide to the inevitable hungry hippos game of munching on elders, just to score more power. The blood potency rules still allow this, but of course now that you can increase in power without going that route, munching on elders is now a major faux pas, and a wonderful short cut to power, rather than a necessity.
  • Theban Sorcery + Cruac and Coils - I love these things since it adds another layer to Vampiric power. It means you can play character like the old school Tremere with out actually all being the same fucking clan. Once more it removes the need to diablerize just to get the kewl powerz! Instead just join the Covenant you like (or steal from them!)

???? ?? ??Things I miss. The original Vampire: the Dark Ages setting but really, all things considered, you just have to deal with the Crone, Invictus and Lancea Sanctum and their associated internal factions and heresies and pretty much all the clans from Dark Ages can be represented as a Clan/Covenant/Bloodline combo.So there are the things that sold me Requiem. Hope it is of interest.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Add some Character(s) to your game


Roleplay games require characters. Characters for your players. But also characters for your players to interact with. These are the cast of the show. These are your allies, enemies and those just passing by. Now as the Storyteller of the game, how do you deal with this cast, which can range from just a half dozen for some stories, or scenes, to over 20 or 30? How can we keep all those characters in our heads without either a) going mad or b) turning into Johnny Depp?

The thing is, it is all a matter of scale and importance. Some characters need elaborate histories while others just need a few lines of description. Some need a whole host of stats while others just need a suggestion on how powerful they are in the actions that they get involved in.

Let's work from the top down then.

At the top, are, after the player characters, the other main stars of the game. These characters are critical to the story, and to the plots that they engage in or even instigate. For this reason these characters need the most detail, both in terms of stats and background. We need to understand their motivations, their hopes, their fears, and just how far they are willing to go to see their plans come to pass. It is by being able to answer these questions, and determine their game stats that we now have some idea of the personality that is required to live through these actions and decisions. After all only a certain type of personality is able to commit to these types of actions and goals. And of course in turn they will only have certain stats. It's a lot of hard work, and of course you want each of these key characters to be different, but the pay off is big. These characters will stand out and are the signature of your game, and will be instantly remembered by your players. You now it had worked when you begin to describe who they spot on a video screen and before you have finished one of the players respond with 'Oh great it's that fucking bitch!' Job's a good 'un!

So what little things can you do that make these characters stand out? You have elaborate backgrounds, well thought out motivations, and stat lines. Well there are their physical descriptions. Now it is so easy to fall into using certain cliches here. All Daeva vampires become sooooo beautiful, sooo sexy. But really the best thing you can do is to make these descriptions fit with their backgrounds. The mundane is not boring, it is believable. And it is also the canvas upon which the more interesting character traits stand out. Too many strange and unique traits become confusing. More useful is when the players can hear a clicking of a case and next see a person who is known for always flicking open and closed a pocket watch. A vampire who smokes is also interesting and means that you can use the smell of that character's cigarettes as a storytelling device. It's these quirks that sell a character. Now quirks don't just have to be physical traits, they can be psychological. Perhaps the character prefers certain colours, or always buys the same newspaper each day at a certain time.

So let's move down the ladder. Characters at the mid and lower levels of importance require a decreasing amount of detail. But just because they don't have character backgrounds that cover every detail of their life, or have complete stat lines, doesn't mean they shouldn't have character. Not all taxi drivers are all the same. This means that even the pedestrians have quirks.


But why should they have quirks? Why should you try and have each character stick in the player's mind? Well in may turn out through the course of a game that even lesser characters become important and these quirks are what make once unimportant, stat free, background less, characters memorable. They suddenly remember where they met that homeless guy, or that cop who reads Shakespeare.

There are other tools for making characters memorable and stand out. We have their mannerisms and their voice. Something that I have seen is that all bad guy characters can end up being the same type of Saturday morning cartoon villains. Deep voices. Menacing stares. Now not all of us are good at mimicking accents. Some of us are just not that confident. But still, making the effort to at least describe the manner in which they talk, and their mannerisms (another clue to the personality of the character), makes these characters memorable.

Now we can even apply this on the fly for characters that we need at a moments notice. All you need is a few seconds to note down a few descriptions for each trait; Physical Description, Personality, Mannerisms, Quirk. Now for the time being you don't need to note anything about their background but if this character is worth using again it is worth going back to these notes and expanding these.

With our cast of characters ready what do we do in play to manage them? Well you know those quick notes for on the fly new characters? That can be applied to characters that have already been written up. We can think all characters in terms of a few descriptions for each of those categories. This means that in our head is a summary of each character, and we can then refer to their full notes if we need details. These summaries can be written down on flash cards and kept on hand if, God help us, we have to deal with many characters at once being spoken to by the player characters. Having to jump between personalities is not easy but the trick for you and the players are these short summaries. If they are memorable to the players then they will be memorable for you.

So there you go, my hints on playing characters, and really how to make a cast of individuals rather than cookie cutter Saturday morning bad guys.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Big List of RPG Plots, by S. John Ross

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via io.com

Now if you have not ever come across this I seriously suggest it as it is an excellent document that is of great help to storytellers old and new.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Subversion: a procedurally-generated city to infiltrate

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How about this applied to a MMO like World of Darkness so each server has it's own city.... very interesting.