drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,
drcpunk
drcpunk

Reading, Viewing

I've finished reading Vampire: The Reboot, er, The Requiem. My biggest problem with it isn't actually systemic. There is so much emphasis on how being a vampire is a curse, not a blessing, and how vampires are just walking corpses, that I'm wondering why one would want to play this game. Oh, I've no objection to the concept for a movie or a book, but I don't really want to play these creatures.

This may be part of the point, and it may be that the players are supposed to find a motivator for their characters. If so, this game is trying, in a way, to do what Ron Edwards' Sorcerer sets out to do. But, I think Sorcerer is more successful. It's shorter and clearer about its aims. It also puts a lot more emphasis on empowering the players. I've long had a problem with the White Wolf attitude towards players, or at least, what I perceive as the company's attitude. I've read too many scenarios full of "X will happen to move the PCs along to the next step in the scenario, No Matter What." Sorcerer does many things to put the focus squarely on the PCs. Plot flows out of what the players say is important to them in the game.

V:TR has a sample plot arc outline that's a good outline, as these things go. One can get hours of play -- probably at least a year's worth of gaming. Unfortunatly, there's a lot of assumptions about what the PCs will do, even when the authors are trying to leave options. Two examples:

1. To show how annoying the current Vampire Prince of the city is, one suggestion is for one of the prince's cronies to take over some mortal institution that a PC has built up, on the grounds that the PC might endanger the Masquerade by continuing to run it.

Hm. So, let's see. Do the authors actually expect the PC to take this lying down? If the PC tries to fight this, and one is playing the Prince and Cronies to the hilt, why, exactly, doesn't the PC get stomped down so hard that the player might as well roll up a new character? I'm not saying there aren't a lot of interesting options here, but the authors don't seem to comprehend the can of worms that this one sentence suggestion leads to. Pity the poor beginning GM who takes this outline at face value and gets a nasty, but logical, surprise.

2. The first arc is to climax in a blood hunt of a young vampire. The hunt was clearly declared not for the stated reasons, which are hogwash, but because the vampire insulted the Prince. The PCs don't actually have to participate in it, though they'll be looked on with suspicion if they don't. Okay, cool. If they participate, they find the running vampire; if not, the vampire comes to them for help. Okay, not bad, though the PCs might be on both sides. But, okay, I'll give the authors a bye on that one. If the PCs help the vampire escape, they will be in Big Trouble if their role is discovered. So, now, on to the next arc, where a vampire NPC who wants to be the new Prince uses the hunt as an excuse to speak out against the current Prince and gather support.

Okay, two problems here. First, what if the PCs have helped the hunted vampire escape and have been obvious enough about it to get caught? What if they flee the city? Again, my problem isn't that the authors have no answers, but that they seem not to have anticipated the possible questions.

Second, as mneme notes, the PCs might choose to back someone else for Prince, one of their own or a different NPC. I'd like some acknowledgement of this possibility, as well as advice to gms to go with this -- slot the new NPC in for the old one, maybe changing the next arc significantly based on the NPC's personality. Fr'ex, mnemex described a Cinhil Haldane-like vampire, a monkish type who doesn't want to rule. If put in place, maybe this vampire doesn't go all power hungry, as the new Prince NPC is supposed to. Maybe the elders think the new Prince is weak, and plots abound. Maybe someone dominates the new Prince or convinces the Prince that the PCs are against him or her.

Instead of 13 clans, there are 5, with a potentially infinite number of bloodlines, and guidelines for creating bloodlines. Players can come up with their own bloodlines, but once one is part of a bloodline, one can't switch to another.

Supposedly, there will be no splatbooks for the clans. What White Wolf has now are splatbooks for coteries, organizations / cliques / conspiracies within vampire society that cross clan and bloodlines. This makes more sense to me.

The groups detailed to any serious length in the main book are the Invictus, feudal hierarchists; the Lancea Sanctum, devout Christian vampires in a way that I can believe might happen; the Circle of the Crone, a catch all for devout Pagan vampires (because everyone knows that all pagan types are alike, right? muttermutter not that I mind the idea that the rites are all the same under different names, but a worshipper of the traditional Crone, however one's tradition defines her, is not necessarily going to get along with a voudoun vampire like the one the book has running the voudoun community of New Orleans); the Carthians, who want to try democracy; and the Ordo Dracul, who follow Vlad Tepes' teachings, or so they claim, and who seem to me to be coded to be the coolest and closest to correct of the groups.

I'm starting to read the Player's Book of the game Sweet Dreams, a Supernatural High School Conspiracy Game, which reads like a teenaged version of Vampire that doesn't take itself too seriously. Instead of the Masquerade, there's the Facade. High school students in the know shouldn't let adults know what is going on. There are two other traditions too, Hierarchy and School Spirit. For some reason, this just has me giggling a lot.

Sweet Dreams also makes an interesting distinction. Players are told not to block -- not to prevent other players from having their PCs act. It's fine to try to thwart the others' plots, but not their chance to act. I'm chewing this one over. I like the principle.

It also advocates staying in character during the game, and not talking about the game outside of the game. Definitely something to be said for that. I think it's part of what gives the current Sorcerer campaign I'm running part of its edge.

Meanwhile, mnemex and I have seen both parts of The Bride with White Hair. Lots of fun, much scenery chewing. I so want to put the brother and sister from the first movie into one of my games as villains. One thing we did notice about this kind of wu xia film in general is that it can be hard to know for sure when someone has died. Okay, if the head's cut off, odds are the character is dead. If the character is told, "You must not do X, or you will die," and the character subsequently does X, odds are good that the character will, in fact, die. But if a character is impaled by a sword? Hard to tell if the character will die or not, especially if the character in question knows kung fu.
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