Thursday, 28 March 2013

[actual play] Vampire the Requiem- Manchester - The Two Thrones

Story 4: Seed

It had been around two weeks since the mass destruction of Kindred of the Lancea Sanctum and the Circle of the Crone. Emergeny meetings had been called by the Chairman, and the Constable and his bailiffs had been working over time to quell disputes over territory. This had left the resources of the Constable stretched, and considering that Galen owed him, he had drafted in the Mekhet vampire to do some spying on certain more volatile anarch vampires in the city.
Galen of course had been conducting is own research into Persian Jinn, and the demon he was certain was now haunting him. Galen was going through a change of heart, a moment of self realization, that his pursuit of nothingness, of being empty of emotion and care, to be free of his mortality, was the very thing that had brought him to this moment and opened him up to the corruption of this demon. But he now had a name for the monster - Hyaninai. Or was it Hilyaish. He was not sure but the demon names fitted what he had experienced so far.
Galen was now looking for a way to reconnect with his humanity and the world, and so had recently ghouled a university student, a biology student who would be of some use. As for the Mithraeum, Galen never returned, instead choosing to block it up once more.
Tristan was of course more preoccupied with the club. There was a need to have the club up and running again soon as it would once more provide a distraction for the younger kindred of the city, and in turn diffuse the tension between the Carthians and the Invictus. Of course the club was almost finished in the renovations, thanks to the funding provided by the Invictus Judex, Lord Peter Hawkins, Viscount of the North of Manchester.
Tristan's ghoul, Carl, was of course fully recovered, and so together the two were involved in the running of Elysium as the Constable and his men were preccupied with more violent problems.

Given the current problems with the unrest in the city the Constable met with Galen and Tristan. He needed their aid to deal with a potential masquerade breach in the south of the city, in Longsight. A group of anarchs seem to be the same group that are behind a mounting number of disappearances in the area. Worse still is that their territory bordered that of Natalia Kerkoft, the Invictus Viscountess of the south of Manchester.

Galen and Tristan made their way to the haven of these anarchs, and it was a place Galen already knew of, and had noted that in the recent nights had only seen the one vampires coming and going. It was a strange moment to do so, but Galen confessed to Tristan that months earlier he had stolen some money from the club. Tristan brushed it off, that it did not matter, especially now.
Together Galen and Tristan headed to the abandoned office block, a building only 4 stories high, and on the street side hosted boarded up shops at the ground level. The two made their way to the read of the building and made their way in. The place was clearly a place for junkies to hangout, and there was litter, decaying food, the smell of rat piss and the vague hint of old blood. The pair of vampires headed down into the basement, and found the boiler room. Within were over a dozen bodies, all in a range of states of decomposition. They were all brutally mauled and covered in bites. Vampire bites. There were also three vampires among their number, their skin stretch and crumbling over their bones. They had also been drained.
Tristan felt something slick under his foot, and lifted it. The bloody membrane stretched up of the floor. It was partly translucent and smelt of bile. A streak of yellow-brown mucus led to the plumbing room, and within they found a uncovered manhole and the body of a further vampire. His mouth had been wrenched open, and his neck had a huge bite upon it, made up of concentric circles of teeth marks.

Rather go into the tunnels without support or some sort of information on the area, Galen called the Constable to arrange a cleanup, and together with Tristan they headed to the canals and to take their normal route through undercity to the meeting chamber, and to the Nosferatu mayor of the undercity, Nails.

Within the chamber, illuminated by drums filled with burning wood, numerous outcast vampire were gambling, bartering and chatting. Some were feeding on some homeless person they had dragged into the darkness. While waiting for Nails to finish his business, Tristan had a tap on the shoulder. He turned to find before him, the ragged goth, and ex-coterie member, Thessaly. She was not alone. With her was her grand-sire and master, the almost goblinoid looking Nosferatu, the master of the Cult of Cernnunos, Magus Gregor. The vile ancient being conversed with Tristan and Galen, listening to their issues, and explaining that he was worried that there those among the Carthians seeking to see the Chairman ousted. While he has no love for the Chairman, he would like to see the Carthians remain in power as any collapse would see the Lancea make a run for power. Tristan and Galen were happy to hear this support from one of the oldest vampires in the city.

Speaking with Nails revealed that similar vampires had been spotted in the sewers, and that one area they had made their haven stank of death and decay. He had so far asked others to keep away from those vampires until he had figured out what they were doing. But  Nails had noticed their auras were different, something Galen had spotted some few nights back with the other coterie. It was that they were confused, and desperately hungry.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The One Shot

The One Shot is a game that last typically for one or two sessions, and is a self enclosed story. For White Wolf games these often present a great opportunity for trying out a new game, or system hacks, or, of course, introducing new players to the game, to the gaming group, or to roleplaying in general. So in this brief blog I am going to look at the types of things that you can do in a One Shot that often a chronicle is not the place for.
One of the things that players often enjoy about ongoing games is that they get to see their character grow and evolve and overcome many different struggles. But in the horror genre, be it slasher films, stalker monsters, or survival horror games like 'Silent Hill' and 'Resident Evil', the excitement is that your character - or the one that you are invested in, in the case of a film - could die at any moment.
In the case of a tabletop game this scenario is a perfect bit of short run fun. The players go into the game knowing that their character can potentially die before the end of the story. This foreknowledge allows for players to not worrying about 'winning', but instead focus on the story, the roleplaying, and just having fun and watch the story unfold.
For new players this is a great ice breaker. The playing field is level, and if they mess up, then it doesn't matter in the long term. It can also be a learning experience that fun can be had in putting their character into danger. The same lesson can also be important for more experienced players. Often players can be too careful when playing, leading to prolonged moments of indecision. A one shot is certainly not the time and place for that type of play, and so it is the perfect chance to teach players about 'playing to lose', and being proactive, even if that means the player knows their character is going into danger. What do i mean by this? Well it is something that Eddy Webb has discussed in relation to LARP, and for tabletop games it is similar as well. Essentially 'playing to lose' means that players should be come to a sort of agreement, that if they put their character into danger, knowingly, a danger that is obvious to the player but for the story would push forward the plot and add drama, then in return they will be rewarded with some chance to roleplay something dramatic, and in turn get the limelight or some form of in game reward. Such dangers could involve the character getting possessed, haunted, seeing visions and driven mad, suffering a gruesome injury, or, if the time is appropriate in the story, then death.
Now that we have considered the way the players of these games can run their characters, how should the ST for this game run the story?
I would suggest a story that has a slowly growing tension. A ever growing threat that leads to an intense few scenes where many, if not all the player characters die. The initial scenes should establish the characters quickly, and their reason for being involved in the story. Perhaps they are the tenants of the block of apartments they are now trapped in, or for some reason they are all drawn to a quiet rural town in the wilderness of Wales. But it is critical that almost all the characters have a reason for being there. The next key scene should establish the threat. Either it is done directly, such as shadowy attack by the slasher, or the monster tries to attack from above before slinking off. Or the threat is done indirectly, to a character's loved one, friend, or group of people that parallel the group (another group of campers is found dead or missing).
With the threat established then the next few key scenes heighten the tension. The characters are allowed to investigate, to be proactive against the threat, and then, at the right moment, remind the players of how dangerous the threat is. Given the scenes where information can be uncovered - and the trick here is not to hold back information that moves the players towards the final confrontation, but make it difficult for the information to be found that saves them - taken together this information will push the story to the finale, where a series of scenes now present the player characters mortal threats, where any number of them will die, and leaves us with a small number of player characters left for the final confrontation and conclusion.
The conclusion should be something nice and dramatic, and given the survival horror nature of the story then all the player characters can in fact die. But there must be some sort of conclusion, so sort of epilogue, that bookends the story.
With the above advice what books are out there that we can make use of for one-shots. Well ideally I would look at using mortal characters for the games. So for cWoD look at the Sorceror book for Mage the Awakening. That book is all about mortals, and mortals who use magic - but not Awakened powers. For there you have a great basis for these types of games. For nWoD, of course there is the main core rulebook, but then there are plenty of other great books to use. Second Sight can allow for the use of players being magic users or psychics. Ghost Stories, Mysterious Places, Glimpses of the Unknown, Reliquary, Midnight Roads, Book of the Dead, Book of Spirits, and Slashers, offer a whole host of options for games for simple mortal characters, perfect for one shots. Building upon this games like Hunter the Vigil, and Hunter the Reckoning, are easy for players to get into, as the game goals are clear and simple. For Vampire, in either incarnation, the classic scenario is playing newly embraced vampires and their first night of survival. For Changeling the Lost it could be the first few nights of escape from the hedge that provides the plot to a one shot.
What types of one shots have you run?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Darker Days Radio - A Retrospective on the Last 2 Years

It has now been almost 2 years that I have been podcasting as a co-host on Darker Days Radio, and in that time a fair bit has happened. I first found Darker Days Radio around episode 4. That was back in July 2009. Listening to Darker Days Radio was something to listen to as I was starting my first job after PhD. I had of course moved city, and so I did not have a new gaming group gathered. It was also at this time I was writing my Venice setting for Changeling the Lost, and so why DD #11 was quite a favourite as I got to nerd on on the forums about it. Darker Days was really filling that void in my life at the time, as well as keeping me sharp ready for when I would start running a new chronicle.
In many respects Darker Days Radio is pretty much the same now as it was then. The main show, hosted by Mark and Vince, had new and classic World of Darkness segments. And in these segments is was exciting to hear how ideas from books could be ported between systems, and between versions of games. It was also great to hear people talk so enthusiastically about new World of Darkness. Furthermore the Secret Frequency was always a great listen, and really was close to the type of research I would do for my own games. Mark and Vince should be given a lot of praise, as in the almost 4 years the show has been going the format has remained, and not stagnated. Mark and Vince always came across as having a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the topics and books they were reading, and covered a broad range of the games.
The show of course has had a change of hosts, with Vince leaving the show, Mike joining, myself joining, and then Mark leaving, the show has retained the same energy. You see that's what is great about going back and listening to the old shows. They still seamlessly fit with the new shows. Many podcasts it's quite clear when they hit their stride and then from then on retain that style, or go through further iterations. But Darker Days from the start had the right formula. And for it to remain still the same slick operation with the same production values is also incredible. While a good many gaming podcasts are more irreverent, and some often come across as 'Dude bro roleplayers talking about stuff', I think Darker Days has always benefited from always remaining on topics, and also benefitted from having hosts who were on different continents. I think that is actually why Darker Days works. The hosts are not meatspace gamers, and not in the same room recording. Less of the 'dude bro' atmosphere. Darker Days has always come across as quite 'high brow', with the in depth knowledge of Vince and Mark for the games and for horror, myths, folklore and storytelling advice.
One of things that has added energy to the show, yet not messed with the formula were the Darklings. These were in some ways born out of the rapid fire game discussions sent in by listeners. They allowed for a form of conversation with the listeners, and provided more interesting topics of discussion for the forums. Ah the forums. Yeah, once I found the show I was pretty active there, suggesting Secret Frequencies and discussing the games. All of these things were what gave the show the energy, yet meant the main show format did not change.
I think Mike starting being a regular contributor from Darkling #9 onwards, as he is a big Vampire the Eternal Struggle player, and so it was his chance to rave about his favourite game. My own contributions first started back with DD #14 when I suggested the Demon Dogs Secret Frequency and the ghost story about my hometown.
Of course DD went through a pause as Vince left, and in that gap the Darkling episodes filled the void. Mike and Mallius made contributions in those shows, and it cemented Mike as a co-host with the show. It was at this time I thought why not go for the chance at being a co-host too. Part of what led to that was the rapid fire synopsis that listeners were asked to send in. These recordings covered each game. I saw a gap, and so covered Geist and Changeling. And of course this led to Darkling #17.
Darkling #17 was all about ghouls. And while they had a listener submission for cWoD ghouls, they need someone to talk about ghouls for Requiem. I was the big Requiem nerd, plus I had run a whole lot. It was all the show that basically let me show of my wide knowledge of nWoD. And what with Mark being off an on again episode #23 was my first show, and was also a chance to geek out. I got to interview David Hill Jr. which was a great first interview as David is a good sport, and really has written many of the more recent things I like in Requiem that have pushed it further from Masquerade. Plus I also covered the Secret Frequency, and also we talked about David's own game, Amaranthine - which was also my first freelance writing gig as I wrote the Venice city description for that game.
So 2 years on and of course we lost Mark as he took up his position as a content writer for a MMO, and Darker Days in some ways has grown. We mourned and suffered as we lost our forums, and Facebook never really worked as a replacement for interacting with the listeners. But Google Plus has really been the dream, and I'm quite glad at initiating that community and seeing it thrive - it being the most active WoD community on G+ while only being half the size of the largest WoD community. We've also seen the addition of the Rogue Council as we have put out more Darklings and now a fanzine. It really has grown into it's own beast and gained legs and arms, but still the core show is essentially the same. In that time I've had the privilege to interview some of the greats of White Wolf, as well as getting to review all the new releases. It is also excellent to see cWoD gaining brand new books, and being a living game setting once more, and of course see the birth of Onyx Path and how that is creating a new era for White Wolf
Darker Days Radio really has been a brilliant experience, and has offered some great opportunities and allowed me to make new friends. It still is a hobby for me, but one now fuels itself as I feel compelled to stay on top of the new releases and to find the best in all books, even if I am playing just nWoD.
If Darker Days could be summed up in one word, it would be immortal. It is as good as it was from the beginning. A testament to what Vince and Mark started, and Mike's professionalism to keep the show as fresh and well produced. Me - I'm just the guy with a brain that oozes everywhere when we do the Secret Frequency.

Friday, 1 March 2013


So I have a lot of posts here about my own games and the chronicles I have run, and a bit about what I will be running, so why not throw me some questions about them? Specifics or more general questions. Go Wild!

Darker Days Radio #44

The Art of Death

Starring C. A. "Sleepless" Suleiman and Sam "Corpse-in-the-Fridge" Araya

Mike, Chris, and James sit down to chat about Mummy with developer CAS and artist Sam Araya. But before they get started there's plenty of Onyx Path discussion, shout outs to the listeners, and an update regarding Forgotten Lore #4. First the group tackles the storytelling elements and setting that Colin developed for Mummy the Curse, including a few player spoilers, so watch out! Next they discuss the hanging dolls of Isla de las Muñecas in the Secret Frequency. Finally, the hosts discuss Mummy's fine art with Sam, and learn a bit about gaming in Paraguay along the way.