Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fires of Creation: Initial Exploration of the Caves

Our last session involved Nathaniel leading everyone to meet with Val after they received her request to meet with them was passed along at the spot with the extinguished Torch by Kathy. Kathy is a ten-year-old girl whose greatest goal is to become the next generation Whispering Tyrant. Our lovely Blackfire Adept, Bort, thought Kathy was terrific and there was much talk of possible cohorts at later level. They reached the Foundry Tavern and heard Val's scream as the robot left there by Khonnir Baine lurched to life and attacked her. No one managed to hit it but the android who took it down in one very lucky and precise (i.e. critical hit) swing.

They then had a chat with Val where she recognised both the android, Maxx, and the Blackfire Adept's Mendevian accent and revealed some of her past journey near Mendev. They swapped a little gossip, Bort mentioned the Wardstones were down, and then they moved onto the issues of Khonnir Baine.

I ran Val as a very strange young woman of around fourteen whose time spent journeying along the Sellen River left her a bit peculiar. A mixture of off vocal tone, blackmailing Nathaniel into having lunch with her rather than darting off, offering to lie to the brothel to cover up Nathaniel going missing for awhile (since his mother wouldn't approve) and using apple and rhubarb pie as a bribe to ensure Bort brings Nathaniel back alive (others preferred, but optional) certainly ensured she'd be a memorable person. Especially when after she felt the conversation was done she ushered them out the Foundry Tavern to go and rescue Khonnir and barred the door behind them.  They discussed her a bit on the stoop, so she told them to hustle off through the shuttered windows.

And then they headed over to the Weeping Ponds to meet Joram Kyte who would cast Water Breathing on them all (four hours for the five PCs + owl familiar). There was already a crowd there, and someone placing bets (72 to 1) that they wouldn't make it alive. Our dear amnesiac took the bet with a gold piece as did Maxx since if they were to lose the bet they wouldn't need the gold anyway.

Finally they dove into the pond and everyone had to roll Swim checks since that skill never comes up and can always be amusing. They each made it in the end, though the Tiefling had to be dragged along by her summoned creature because she rolled a 1 and therefore plunged down too deep and was getting confused on which way was up. They enter the caves and reach the greatest obstacle of all -- a five foot wall.

 Eventually they all get up there and as Maxx is pulling Nathaniel up onto the ledge (after first disinfecting her hands with tea tree oil), three fire bugs attack! The amnesiac alchemist (whose name eludes me) harvested their glands which now hang in a tube at her belt. The Tiefling dropped down off the shelf to check along the water-logged tunnel and spotted a few moulds on the deceased Halfling party but surmised that they won't come after them if they don't get too close.

Upon heading further into the caves, they face the Blindheim and all but Maxx and Nathaniel are blinded in the first round. Naturally Bort simply freaks out and tries to retreat through the stalactites, wailing. They manage to take it out and retreat to the entrance of the caves, but Bort's loud whining attracts the attention of the moulds which are easily slain as they try to make their way up onto the shelf.

After an hour of waiting out the spell, they start to continue before being attacked by all four skulks who kept darting off again, luring them into traps (used Sef's gear to make traps). It was only when I re-read their section that I see there was meant to be a diplomatic option. No matter. I'm going to have Sef be a fifth skulk who is….

 No, you'll see. And that's where we left it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Iron Gods Campaign and the Value of Preludes

Well I have been talked into running Iron Gods for my players alongside Wrath of the Righteous which is good timing because I've also been thinking a great deal about how my LARP PCs and NPCs have oodles of interesting elements to unpick and yet most tabletop PCs are almost never considered an intriguing riddle to unpick by the other players.

In a discussion with two of my Iron Gods players, I discovered that it was because my players talk about their characters to the point where everyone knows everything about them already.  This excitable chatty phase was really important to them, though, and while it removed the chance for in-game discovery it gave them the ability to figure out just what they really liked about their characters.
So I settled on a compromise.  They were able to talk about their character concepts and generate them together in an initial character generation session but then after that point I would run each one through a secret prelude that they couldn't describe to each other.  The players were happy with this and it led each one to have a better understanding of their characters *and* meant that there were tasty little details that no one else knew about.
Our characters include:
Luna, a tiefling summoner (God Caller) from Sarkoris who is a demon-tainted elf (tiefling stats but elf appearance and longevity) who can summon a blue elemental dragon and who has worked at the Torch for the past several decades using her fire resistance to her advantage.  As with any elf, she has a long and colourful history that mainly focused on her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.
Nathaniel, a telekinetic germ-phobic psychic who grew up in the Marrymaid Brothel in Torch, whose prelude was mostly day-in-the-life and building background ties with many of the NPCs which allowed him to have a great big list of characters.  The player was also allowed to have access to a map of Torch.  Since he's sixteen he has to hide his later delve into Black Hill from his mother and also gets a lock of flack during the final half of his prelude which was shared with Maxx since his mother bribed Maxx to shake his hand (Maxx requested disinfectant first which meant Nathaniel was okay with it) and to spend the day with him.  A few others not in the know thought they might be on a date when they went to the Copper Coin tavern which led to an incredibly awkward dinner and then Maxx ended up at the Evercandle Inn.
Maxx, a newly reborn android occultist with purple hair whose player conveniently modelled her appearance on the image found on the cover of the player's guide to Iron Gods, and who has inspired me to have all androids share one of 200 likenesses.  His prelude included a Shocking Beginning before he was finally picked up by Jhestine, the Torch apothecary, on her return to town and then he was introduced to Nathaniel and the two given the task of helping Jhestine make her deliveries. 
Bort was a wizard (BlackFire Adept) from Mendev who was accidentally dropped onto Nathaniel due to a teleportation mishap.  His prelude involved the loss of the Wardstones and his subsequent escape from Mendev as well as a grand conspiracy.  The locals thought him a high level wizard because he teleported in and didn't realise it was someone else's botched attempt to grab him.
Finally we have Cerulean / Rosa who woke up in Evercandle Inn with no recollection of her past and some sort of injection gun laying near her outstretched hand.  Her player didn't know what to have for her back story so I told her to leave it to me.  Foolishly she has chosen to do so.  The town of Torch contains many little hints and tidbits about who she is but as she isn't local those hints are few and far between.
As you can imagine there's a lot of easter eggs and references to previous occurrences in their histories which lend the game extra gravity and interest.  The short preludes also really set up the characters with some all the more interesting conversations and miscommunications.  Of course it helps that I've woven in their plot lines with the Iron Gods campaign and unintentionally they have helped me with this (such as Maxx's shared appearance with a certain purple-haired someone).
It already feels more cinematic with a great sense of interwoven narrative that has me squeeing with joy after only one session.  Will do the session write up soon though most of it will be minor social details as they haven't begun adventuring yet.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wrath of the Righteous: The Sarkorian Prophecy


The Sarkorian Prophecy is a Pathfinder Society adventure for level 11 characters which it set in the rather interesting city of Storasta.  I thought it might make for an interesting segue into the very special rift-closing book featured in the actual adventure path by dropping in a few of the bark pages of that mysterious volume that sat among the text itself, thus tying the whole thing together a little more smartly to the players' own actions.

Of course the monsters as written in that book are rather … dull … for a level 12 mythic tier 3 party which is fair considering that the book is written for an average level 11 non-mythic party.  Also there were far too many demons in it for my liking as Storasta's flair for me is the chance to get into some plant-kicking action.
Due to the teleportation muddle that occurs around Storasta, they set upon a slightly different plan.  Firstly they had Aravashniel teleport them to the nearest held city which was in Numeria (interesting fun times will happen there later but they didn't investigate so that'll make the Iron Gods campaign path even more fun) and then the rest of them team (Eliska the dhampyr oracle/rogue, Dantalion the half-succubus cleric/magus, Lex the umbral dragon/ninja disguised to look bronze, Alphy the tiefling monk/bard and Osprey the Pathfinder Druid who was along for the ride to show them the way) made the rest of the journey to Storasta using Wind Walk.  This allowed them to bypass all of the terrain obstacles but the abyssal tornado coming their way got them to hide all right.
So I had them face (yet another) night hag which was beaten rather simply since she had no means of hiding her alignment or changed shape.  Silly Pathfinder scenario.   The pair then decided to resurrect the paladin as a favour to Ollysta Zadrian (who had mentioned the loss of her paladin before they left).  They then sent the paladin back home with one of Dantalion's many spells.  They rested for a bit in the tunnels before setting off in Wind Walk some more down the weed-choked path through the vegetation that the tornado had hollowed.
Then they were attacked by two Ropers which gave them an interesting challenge and managed to last a few rounds.  When you're geared to fight demons, aberrations and plants suddenly become difficult.  Once in front of the Pathfinder lodge, I replaced the glabrezu (which they'd fought before) with two Baregara just to mix things up a bit.  Then they went into the Lodge and took out the various Shadow Pathfinders, though they figured out first that they weren't members of the Ivory Labyrinth when Dantalion strolled in with full half-succubus glory and demanded to know why they were late.  The reactions on the Shadow Pathfinders faces as they tried desperately to lie and pretend they were demonic subordinates rather than face them in battle was priceless.  They were subdued for later interrogation and Osprey kept an eye on them while they gave chase to the others.
They chased the main villain, who was both Shadow Pathfinder and cultist, through a tunnel that led out from the outskirts of Storasta into a wide open plain of cracked earth with lava peeking through the cracks.  I had the giant scorpion running alongside him as an assistant and surrounded him with swarms of a helpful CE version of hellwasps.  They were taken out pretty easily still, especially once the villain was surrounded by a blade barrier and attacked by flying PCs.  I added a sub-mission via Eliska Zadrian that they should capture his familiar as she'd guessed he was a witch (Oracles gotta be good for something and it felt like a neat little side-mission).  They succeeded in taking out the witch and saving the scorpion.
Weirdly enough I noticed the villain had Greater Teleport on his spell list….  I know that teleports go a bit off in this zone but surely he'd try it if in battle but it wasn't in his write off so I claimed to myself (and later, after the battle, to the PCs) that he'd already expended it that day.
We finished the session with the sight of a Crag Tarn flying toward them (CR 14).  They had time to escape but I put it on the table as a test to see just how potent they were.  So the next game they fled back to the tunnel entrance and then went all out on the Crag Tarn to take it down.  They were successful and managed to kill it before it could attack them (since it had been spotted quite a way off).
This makes me wonder if I can pull off having the Book 6 brothel occur earlier … such as a more interesting place to situate Minagho's rift but the CR 19 enemies in that book are probably a *little* too powerful for even my intrepid heroes.  Especially as there are so many of them.  So instead I might place it in one of the other interesting sites around and decorate it up.  Perhaps place the structure in the cradle of the Yathscar?  Or in the forest of burning dryads where they must fear the green dragon + succubus rider?  Not sure yet, but wherever it'll be, it shall be fun.
Tee hee … could always make them try all of the above in their search of it!  What do you think?

Friday, January 8, 2016

901 Posts! Woo hoo!

So with this post I've vaulted through 900 posts on this blog.  Wow ... just wow.  I can't imagine how long it would take to read them all.  I swear I should try it sometime, though.  See what I can find.  See what gems of wisdom I've promptly forgotten about moments after I wrote them down!  (Here's hoping there's gems of wisdom somewhere in 900 posts!)  But yeah, woo!  Go me!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

LARP Bleed -- Deal With It

So we've discussed that bleed exists (feeling emotions due to fictional experiences which occur during the LARP) and that it is normal but can be typically reduced (or enhanced) by taking certain actions during the design of the game itself.  Now let's look at ways of dealing with it when it does arise.

Firstly, talk about it.  Mention it during game preparation.  Find an article on it that explains it just right for your game, print that article out and pass it around to your players.  Perhaps include it in your New Player Pack.  Talk about its importance and that it’s the flipside to immersion.  People can't manage it when it takes them completely by surprise.  Then encourage people to talk to you about it.

It can help to provide a few anecdotes about your own experiences with positive and negative bleed and to encourage other experienced players to do the same.  This will normalise the process.

Now is a good time to mention any disturbing content, triggers or likely bleed issues in your game.  If characters can die at any time, if NPCs committing suicide is a risk, or if characters will occasionally aim to publicly humiliate each other to score points with the prince, then it's a good idea to let the players know.  This helps empower them to know if this is the kind of game for them and, if so, the shared game contract allows them to prepare themselves for the worst.

I'd also recommend including some kind of gesture to reflect if someone is still feeling all right that can be subtly used in the game.  It might be the A-OK sign that I flash you if I'm uncertain if those tears in your eyes are a sign of an enjoyable immersive experience or one you want to end.

Having a sign where people can cut the scene, take a step back for a few minutes, then narratively conclude the scene when it gets too intense is also a good idea for some games though naturally if it is used a lot by a particular player in a particular game in situations that are typical of that game than that game may not be suitable for them.

So now you've talked about it during the preparation phase, I'd also recommend mentioning it whenever you experience it during the game and to encourage other players to do the same.  It doesn't need to be a big deal if you (or the player) aren't looking for reassurance.  It could be as simple as an observation like: "Oh, felt a bit of bleed with that scene back then.  All good now,  though."  Or: "I experienced more bleed from that than I thought I would!"

Typically people will discuss negative bleed as "bleed", by the way, and positive emotions by their named emotion.  "That was so exciting!" or "I felt so good when that happened."  That's fine and normal.  People won't always want to explain precisely what painful or aggravating emotion they experienced, only that it did happen.

A strong social backdrop will really help as well.  If you all go out for karaoke or meet up after game for food (eating together is a great social glue) then you will have a more positive network that will help people better identify bleed by divorcing the character actions from the player actions.  In other words, if I only ever deal with your character, how could I know if you actually don't like me or are a mean-spirited person?  If we've hung out together and had a great time, it's a lot easier to realise that it's a character event and simply bleed we're experiencing.

Finally after sessions if you have a heavy-bleed game having every player mention the most emotional moments they experienced during the game, either all together or in small groups (depending on game size).  Mostly they'll focus on positive emotions, but do encourage them to at least mention if they experienced any bleed during the session, even if they don't want to go into detail with it.

So now that you've set the groundwork, what do you do when someone is experiencing painful bleed?

Firstly, validate it.  Each culture treats reassuring and helping someone through painful emotions differently so go with a more sensitive version of that.  In general, listen more than you speak and always validate what they're feeling.  You can provide a few anecdotes of your own experiences but keep them short, sharp and shiny and don't let them take priority.  In other words, your anecdotes are merely to show that you've been there and you understand rather than serving as a chance to vent.

Just don't give any anecdotes of when the same player caused you bleed as that can lead to a bitching session where you both rant about the player, and that's a very toxic way to go.  If the issue is truly with the player, than it's not about character bleed and needs to be dealt with in other ways.

Gently providing perspective on the other characters' actions, or the GM's intentions, can help if the player seems frustrated as to why they were targeted in-character in such a way but should be done gently, in response to their queries, and without judgement.  Re-iterate that they have the right to be upset, it's just that the other player didn't realise how much it would have hurt them or that the other character was operating on different information or had some other goal.

Oftentimes you don't have to give the game away in terms of character motivations, simply providing a half dozen different perspectives of what might be the case can help as it helps the player think in terms of IC motivation rather than OOC personality traits.

Give the player a bit of space to come to terms with their own emotions and then encourage the involved players to spend time together, especially if it's due to character antagonism.  If they avoid each other than the bleed may become entrenched in actual resentment and that's the last thing you want.  Depending on the players, they might be happy to have a special antagonist's hangout to have a bit of fun with it or they might prefer it to be a big group activity that's not so large they can lose sight of each other.

These are the techniques I've used so far, anyway.  Does anyone know any other tricks?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

LARP Bleed -- Accept It

If I could change one thing about the LARP scene, it would be the belief that experiencing negative bleed (i.e. empathising with your character's negative feelings to the point where you experience them yourself) is a "bad" thing or somehow a sign of a poor roleplayer.  Bleed is the flipside to immersion. People have feelings during the game and sometimes these will be painful and sometimes they will persist beyond a few days.  It happens.

Of course acknowledging this means acknowledging that sometimes, as a player, you are going to do things that will cause another player pain.  We're all decent people.  We don't want to knowingly hurt another player.  So we claim that anyone who feels a painful emotional reaction to our actions is a sore loser or a bad roleplayer so that we can feel better in assuming that the majority of people can engage in the game without any pain whatsoever, no matter what we do.

It's not an evil temptation (nor the only reason behind it -- most cultures with issues with bleed also have issues with displaying emotion or seeking reassurance) but it is one that divides us and allows for a steady build up in resentment.

After all, while allowing another player to hurt your feelings through fictional actions against a fictional character is often a taboo, being the victim of unfair circumstances is a perfectly valid way of seeking sympathy.  Therefore the hurt player has a real incentive to find someone to blame, some great unfairness behind it all, so that they can vent their feelings without being stigmatised.

"Oh, it's not that I'm feeling things, it's that the guy over there actually screwed me over in some unfair way, and the GM's probably in cahoots with it."

Unfairness is something that can net you sympathy card and even if the other players see through your self-deception, they're not necessarily going to call you on it and you never need to admit that the actions were justified and understandable but painful to experience. 

NOTE: Yes, sometimes there is some sort of OOC unfairness going on but sometimes it's just a person looking for sympathy who can't get it any other way.

No one's shocked when someone gets upset or angry over what happens on fictional television series, novels and movies.  Yet those fictional events are not your fault.  You didn't make the bad call that got your character killed.  Your friend didn't write the death scene that took out your favourite NPC.  You weren't the one sitting in the hot seat while a dozen other people mercilessly point out all of your flaws and mistakes for a full hour in a bid to drop your status and increase their own.

These things are going to be more intense because you're there.  The threat of such consequences will also add a thrill to the game, ensuring the successes are all the brighter, so there's no need to get rid of them.  It's simply important to accept that the odds of being a person who is incredibly immersed in the experience yet whose emotions switch off the moment something bad happens or someone says END SESSION is incredibly unlikely.

The emotions are there and they will persist until resolved.

Does this mean that bleed is an excuse to be a dick?

Hell no!

However I have found those who own their emotions and accept that sometimes you'll feel bad when bad things happen can actually move through it more readily and with far less (even no) resentment towards those who have caused it.   Rather than having to create victimhood narratives to get a shred of sympathy, they can instead turn to the players of antagonists in the game, and to their allies, and go: "Wow.  That hurt.  It really hurt.  I love this game and you guys are all awesome … but wow.  Feeling so much more bleed right now than I thought I would."

This then allows the players of their antagonists to give them a hug, metaphorical or otherwise, and talk them through it and maybe provide some perspective.  Nothing kills OOC blame on a player of an antagonistic character like when that very same player provides much needed comfort and reassurance.

Does this mean that there are no ways to reduce player bleed or strengthen the IC / OOC barrier?  Sure there are!  Heck, acknowledging bleed strengthens the IC / OOC barrier just like the example where one's characters are at war while the players help each other out.

Unfortunately most methods to reduce bleed will reduce *all* bleed.  You can't get tonnes of the good without the risk of the bad because the more immersion, engagement and attachment you have the worse you'll feel toward loss and humiliation -- except by removing the threat or reducing the extent of that loss / humiliation (i.e. cooperative PvE game where no loss is permanent).

NOTE: GMs also can feel Bleed as not only are they seeing the big picture, empathising with all players involved in order to figure out what they want next but they can also be partially responsible for what they're seeing.  Seeing your players in pain because of a decision you made, even if the ramifications of that decision were completely unforeseen, can also cause a GM pain.  While GMs often provide support to their players who are experiencing negative bleed, they typically don't have anyone they can talk to either due to secrecy reasons or a desire to prevent their views from clouding the situation and making things worse.  So give your GM a cookie or a Thank You card as a concrete sign of your favour!  If they're any good, they deserve it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Paradise Island Character Generation Q&A

Posting this here as not only is it an easy link but some of you guys from overseas might be legitimately interested in how I do it as well.  Caution, though, this is a long one.

Advanced Warning: Grand Adventure!  Strange Mysteries!  Long dead civilisations!  This is not a game of gothic horror and terrible tragedy.  It is far more Magnum P.I. and Tomb Raider than a game of withering moral decay and inscrutable elders.  This is a low-powered primarily cooperative cross-genre campaign which departs from canon in many places. 

The game set on a tropical island where tensions between a few wealthy western resorts and the nearby slum city are at an all-time high.  It is a low-powered game where all supernatural characters enter with a base sheet while hunters gain extra dots in skills, attributes and merits and where the asymmetry between the power levels of certain character types is embraced as just another layer to the setting.  While PvP will certainly exist, it should be kept reasonably low level with social interplays, love triangles and petty rivalries taking the place of high level murder, treachery and annihilation of one's opponents.
Due to the very specific feel of this setting, there will be a few additional restrictions on character generation.  In part this is because in a game of potentially only 2 - 3 creatures of your type, you don't need to dilute the special nature of your species with further divisions such as covenant affiliations.  In part it is also to keep the asymmetry of the game from reaching staggering proportions -- which is why you can't start with a skill above three OR ever purchase the fifth dot in any supernatural power.

Q&A

What creatures can I play?

Vampires and their ghouls (Blood & Smoke).  Werewolf: the Forsaken.  Geist: Sin Eaters (referred to as necromancers in this game).  Mage: the Awakening.  Changeling: the Lost. Demon: the Fallen (nWoD conversion).  Demon: the Descent.  Hunter: the Vigil (limitations apply).

I want to play a villain!  Can I?

Full PvP is possible, but villainous characters and treachery are likely to be short-lived as there are just too many routes to discovery and too little incentive to meekly accept a monster as an ally.  Bear in mind that many players who adore playing the villain often find the inevitable and often untimely and unceremonious defeat of their character rather aggravating.  No enemy that runs up against a dozen characters and deals with them on a day-to-day basis is likely to last long.  Creating an unassailable villain that cannot be dealt with by an entire group of PCs is not only highly unlikely in a cross-genre game but also incredibly boring and frustrating for everyone concerned.  You can portray a villainous NPC, however, whenever I need cast for them.

What about competitive PvP?

Go for it.  Portraying a bitchy character, rivalry for an NPC's affection, competition for authority or clashing over territory adds all kinds of zest.  Even relatively benevolent and friendly rivalries are great entertainment.  You could make one-sided deals, do little dodgy experiments such as coaxing a vampire to drink a coke, or otherwise make your own entertainment.  All of that is great stuff.  There's also nothing to say you can't be a bit suspicious of another supernatural type so long as you accept that they'll be sticking around.  Murder, frequent violence (primarily against non-regenerating targets like changelings, demons and humans), major theft from other party members and treachery will probably end with you dead or exiled. 

I've read the various character type documents.  Why so many restrictions?

Most games let you use pretty much everything in one game line.  This game lets you use most things in several game lines.  In a way, it's less restrictive than most.  Also while a certain amount of asymmetry between character types is expected, all characters need to feel relevant and for this game to really shine there's a certain style that needs to be followed during character generation.

Can I play a vanilla human?  No endowments?

It's one thing to play a less *powerful* character, it's another thing entirely to *only* have skills and attributes to fall back on -- especially if you're also playing someone with no extraordinary knowledge and skills to back them up.  You'll find your character swiftly becomes completely redundant because unfortunately a pure mortal (unless it's a set up for a sudden transformation later on) isn't going to offer anything that a supernatural can't since skills start to take a back seat when super powers can duplicate many of a skill's effects.  If you want to play ordinary human beings then I recommend joining as Cast because while a single mortal will find it hard to stay relevant each and every session, a dozen mortals will always have *something* to do and can create a myriad of meaningful stories that will allow you to explore being perfectly normal in an abnormal world.  And I can always use new cast!

So I want to play a supernatural who is also a military / scientific / law enforcement official with this really epic backstory….?

Sorry, let me stop you there.  Unless you're human, you need a mundane backstory.  The more ordinary your character's human history, the more incredible and fabulous the transformation into a supernatural will feel.  Finally your character is no longer ordinary!  Finally they are something special.  It's one of the few perks humans get and, more importantly, an epic back story means your character's colourful past will overshadow their present and potentially that of everyone else in the game.  Naturally changelings get a little more leeway during their durance but that's largely because much of their durance history is both blurry and fake.  After all, a changeling could *think* they were a fantastic physicist or epic engineer in Arcadia but what are the odds the Keeper bothers with real physics anyway when one can substitute math for magic.

So if the epic jobs are out, what's left?

Massage therapist.  Fire stick juggler.  Crèche worker and children's entertainer. Concierge.  Receptionist.  Swimming instructor.  Tour guide.  Tourists of various stripes.  Bartender.  Mechanic.  Taxi driver.  Gift shop clerk.  Tiki hut cleaner.  Artist.  Electrician.  Construction worker.  Cook.  Dancer.  Surfer.  Parent working two jobs.  Fisherman.  Boat pilot.  Charity fundraiser.  You get the idea.

What nationalities can we belong to?

The resort island is off the coast of Indonesia but was considered a little too far out of the way during the first tourism boom of the seventies and so after a decade it became really run down.  There's no one native to the island but there are second generation (and a few third generation kids) from those imported to work the tourism angle and then later a few cheap factories during the eighties when tourism slumped.  While rich tourists can be of any nationality, they will be mostly Indonesian, Singaporean, Malaysian, Chinese, Australian, and Japanese with French, German and UK visitors representing Europe and only a small proportion of Americans.  Some research into the cultural habits and demographics of your nationality would be good.  The poorer workers living here are primarily Indonesian and Chinese, who are incredibly reliant on the tourism trade and factories here as they can't afford to move.  You can read more about tourism over here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Indonesia

How much experience points do I get?

Nada.  None.  Zip.  You're all meant to be very basic characters.  Hunters will get free dots in a few different fields but everyone else gets base sheets.
 
Can I have mortal relatives or friends?

Sure!  Buy them as a contact to reflect your connection to them.

Can I have servants or bodyguards as retainers?

Nope.  Focus needs to be on the PCs.  You can still have staff portrayed through your resources and can buy favoured ones as contacts but anyone you want to have a lot of connection to should be a PC.

VAMPIRE: What if I have a ghoul?

You won't know how to do that.  Unless you convince another player to be your ghoul and then we can have them be created by your sire as a gift so that you don't know how to make new ones straight away.

VAMPIRE: Can I blood bond someone to gain their loyalty?

You won't know about that property of your blood and the hunters may have some pretty white lies to tell you about that.  This is probably for the best.  Knowing your friend can wrap you around their finger forever with a few drops of blood is the best way to generate paranoia towards your character.  Something for later seasons, perhaps.

Can I have a supernatural mentor?

Nope.  That's what the hunters get to be.  All sires will be dead or missing.  No werewolves to teach you the ropes.  No changeling freehold to join.  The supernatural population of sentient creatures (i.e. playable races) will be almost entirely PC.

Why would we listen to hunters?

Simple, I'm only referring to them as hunters because they're from the Hunter: the Vigil book.  You'll know them as human experts in the supernatural who can help you understand what's become of you.  Until very recently, you thought of yourself as a human (for most of you, anyway) so you shouldn't have an in-built fear of other human beings.  Don't worry.  It's no longer a sin for werewolves or changelings to reveal themselves to mortals anymore.  In fact, where possible I'm removing the morality traits from every creature.  I might do something different with Harmony.  I haven't decided yet.

How fresh are we anyway?

All of you will be less than a month old as a supernatural (hunters excepted) with a preference for characters being between a week to a few hours after their change.  Changelings will be able to regain their old lives and will only have been missing for less than six months (no fetch) of real time though years may have passed in Arcadia.  We'll include everyone's preludes during the workshop process to ensure that people have some encounters with each other before their change as well.

Can I have been a ghoul / wolfblooded and get knowledge that way?

No.  No prior supernatural knowledge for your characters that would help them out.  Naturally minor encounters that fit the change can have occurred but you mustn't give your characters too much context.  A necromancer (i.e. sin eater) might have had to avoid graveyards and ghost tours pre-death due to a creepy feeling they always got.  A werewolf might have been sure they were being haunted shortly before their First Change because of spirit activity.  However no one mentored you in what happened beforehand and you don't get to know anything fancy.  You learn in-game.

Can I know pop culture references?

You sure can.  In fact, I absolutely and 100% encourage basing your knowledge off television and mythology where you can.  I might even change up the canon a little bit to make certain things true.

VAMPIRE: Won't I be forced out of sessions that happen during the daytime?

No, vampires will be given daylight rings by the Loyalists of Thule which allows them to spend a blood to stay awake and safe during the daytime.  They won't have access to any blood buff or disciplines during this time, but can still remain the tanks of the operation through quick healing and the fact they take bashing from most sources.

Can I enhance humans with my powers?
Yes.  Ghouldom is the only exception as it would wipe out their endowments, but you won't know how to do that, so it's fine.

VAMPIRE: Can I Embrace a mortal human?

You won't know how to do that so it'll probably end badly.  So please don't.  Unless the PC has entered into play to be your childe.  Then that could be amusing.

WEREWOLF: What about lunacy?  Will that affect the hunters?

Nope.  Lunacy will still be there, but won't affect anyone with a supernatural template or the Sleepwalker merit, which all of the hunters will have for free.

WEREWOLF: Won't pack separate me from the other supernaturals?

Other supernaturals and mortals can join your pack.  However they can't add to your Totem Spirit though they can reap some of the benefits.  Your totem spirit will be more of an adorable ally, though, rather than a heavy hitter.

WEREWOLF: Will I start with any renown?
Nope.  The first three dots will still be free but you'll need to earn it in-game, just like with everyone else.  It should be fun!  Don't worry I'm not depriving you of your free stuff just because "realism".  I'm doing it because it's a fun element of being a werewolf and will make it my mission to ensure that your pre-selected free dots are activated / earned in-game within the first month.

MAGE: Will I start with any rotes?

Yes, and no.  You won't enter play with them but you'll still get the six free dots to assign that you'll then need to learn in-game.  Let me know what rotes you want and I'll ensure they get to you in the first grimoire you find.  You'll need to find other grimoires to learn more rotes or spend considerable time researching them.  Again I'm happy to be guided by what you, the player, want to find but I'll also sprinkle around a few scrolls and the like to be gathered up and enjoyed that will discuss other rotes which may also provide greater knowledge of the island's secrets.

HUNTER: Will I get to pick my conspiracy?

You are all Loyalists of Thule.  You are also all ex-agents of other conspiracies.  At least other Loyalists think you are.  Is it true or not?  Who knows where your loyalties currently lie?  You can have been a member of the Cheiron Group, Lucifuge, or VASCU agent.  Alternatively you could be a pure Loyalist of Thule and take Relics as an endowment (typically belonging to another group who won't be included here).  Alternatively you can pick certain psychic merits and even low-rank rotes to fashion your own Endowments as a long-standing Loyalist so long as they fit an aesthetic and are no more powerful than Castigations.  No cheese.  This isn't a cheesy game. 

WEREWOLF: Does this mean I can't enter the Hisil much because no one can follow me?
You can turn loci into temporary verges to allow non-humans to cross.  You can then roll Intimidation so that all Hard to Ride mortals (i.e. hunters) won't be possessed by any spirits so long as they remain relatively near you.

CHANGELING: Can others enter the Hedge with me without getting torn to shreds?

Depends on the region of the Hedge you're hoping to enter.  Mostly they'll be fine and in the places where they wouldn't be you would also be under more threat than usual.  Luckily there'll be hedge fruit or trifles that can help you through.  You'll also have the Mirror Realm to worry about and that will sure be fun.

Will we still have rules booklets?

Yes, but it'll be doubly important to know what your powers do even if you don't know the mechanics behind them.  There'll be an in-game tutorial as part of your prelude and training by the Loyalists of Thule but from that point on it's up to you.  Since you won't have much in the way of experience points, you won't have so many powers to worry about though.

Can I buy five dots in a fighting style?

While tempting this would go against the idea of playing an ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary world. Unless you're a hunter, then you can go for it though I'd recommend prioritising ranged over melee since you'll be awful squishy.  Well, until the mages get enough Arcanum to cast a shield over you.  Then you'll only be as squishy as the mages.

What if I want to be a lone wolf and avoid others out of suspicion?

A logical reaction to the situation, but it's a LARP so you'll need to create a LARP character.  If changelings can justify joining Freeholds and vampires can justify going to court gatherings despite all the risks at either, I think you can justify hanging out with a bunch of randoms and clinging to them out of fear and confusion.  This is the character generation phase so "But it's what my character would do!" won't rub.  Create a new character.  One who'll give you a reason to attend the LARP.  Be suspicious, sure, but attend the gatherings and get involved or else you'll find yourself on the outside.  Those in the know (i.e. hunters) will have their hands too full to devote themselves full-time to encouraging your character to stick around.