Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spreading Corruption Act II: Dead Campers

James and Hassan head towards the sound of the gunshots, both using Heightened Senses to see and smell better in the gloom. They soon find the embers of a camp fire surrounded by three tents. A crate of beer cans sit by the embers. Three circular chunks of churned earth, each about three feet wide, are positioned around the campfire like they'd been freshly dug and then replaced, though without the usual large lumps that normally form when you try to fit uncompressed dirt back into its slot.

The tents contain sleeping bags, booze bottles, snacks, and a wallet in a jacket that identifies a man called Carl Thomas. The address listed on his license is just down the slope, a two-storey house along one of the few still lived in streets of this 'suburb'. They can see from the campsite that there's a light on upstairs but nowhere else in the house.

Hassan smells gunpower floating around at a point beside one of the tents and there's a lot of compressed earth and a few footprints there that suggest someone had been kneeling at the time when the guns were fired. Whoever had been here, had been in plain sight of the others. Neither of them could spot where the bullets have gone, though in this lightly scrub-shrouded hill, that wasn't not too surprising.

Hassan can only smell three human men at the campsite. There's no scent around where the shooter had crouched nor any scent of a monster.

Hassan can also smell blood, and they can see a line of blood spray on the soil near one of those churned holes and, guessing that bodies were buried here, they begin to dig the bloody one first. Hassan feels something brush his hands, and moments later he unearths fingertips. They keep digging, sliding the earth back, and James feels the rough texture of dirty hair against his hands. Finally, they unearth two hands and a head, positioned as though they'd been sheared at around the same spot after being pulled into the ground.

Neither of them have any skill in examining bodies, but Hassan's investigative talents do help him figure out that the parts were severed using something sharp yet slightly rough, like teeth. They don't bother to fully dig out any of the holes but they do dig up the first foot or two of each hole and find the other two empty, though blood-stained. They surmise that the decapitated one may have been standing at the time and therefore he was harder to swallow in one bite.

Hassan's occult background makes him instantly think of cryptids, as what else could tunnel through rock so effectively? Yet Cryptids normally are pushed back from civilisation and these hills aren't that far away. It could be some sort of briefly manifested spirit and his Arcane Sight does detect faint traces of unidentifiable magic around the holes. Or perhaps some shard of non-reality accidentally summoned by the working of a powerful spell. It's hard to be sure but what he does know is that since there were no screams, and the blood is very fresh, it's likely that all three were taken at once.

So they decide to follow the tracks to learn more from the mysterious shooter, when they can find him.

You can find all of this adventures' articles over here.


A replayed song from the Fahrenheit soundtrack.


If your players enquire about a line of investigation, or a type of clue, that you hadn't thought of before, don't hesitate to include it. Why not let them trace the source of gunpowder in the air with Heightened Senses - Smell?

I also broke up the unearthing of the body parts into steps to boost the creepy factor by making them wonder what they would find. At that stage, there were equal chances that they would dig up a still living person who had been dragged into the dirt, or perhaps a zombie that would attack them, or perhaps a severed head (as it was), or an entire corpse, or something else entirely. They didn't know. Besides, it was more immersive to describe it as their characters would have experienced it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spreading Corruption Act I: Eagle-On-The-Hill

Hassan arrived first at Eagle on the Hill. It's an old, derelict hotel opened in 1853, ravaged twice by bushfires (once in 1899 and again in 1983), and then abandoned after the construction of the new freeway route. Thus the hotel they wait at (pictured above) is a relatively benign loci (as far as they go) of flame and abandonment. It would make for a brilliant wyrm's nest (a crucible, no less) but for the werewolf pack (the Protectorate) who use it as a meeting place.

Anywho, so Hassan waits for a short while and reflects on the fact that the night up here is truly pretty. It's never struck him before. In fact, nothing truly has for decades as the ancillae is old enough that his feeling echoes have receded into rare moments. Tonight feels profound and he chalks it up to an omen from the concept of the Dark Mother rather than a burgeoning reawakening of weak but sincere emotion.

James Tyler soon arrives. The two have dealt with occult situations before in-game (and presumably also during the intervening decade and a half between campaigns) so Hassan can be more honest with the Invictus than he otherwise would be. In this element, they are occult investigators and potential hunters allied to a common cause, not politicos dancing with words in Elysium.

James explains the court situation. Hassan explains again what he saw over the city. They try to figure out what to do about it when they hear two gun shots coming from below, in the direction of the sleepy remnants of the dying suburb. Trouble is, that particular remnant they hear the shots coming from is only a few hundred feet down one of the slopes. It sounds like a .38 revolver.

In 2025, in this particular future of Adelaide, gun laws have been relaxed due to the current dangers and need for self-protection so the sound isn't as unusual as it otherwise would be in Australia but it's still worth checking as it's 11pm at night. Hassan uses Heightened Senses - Hearing and makes out a muffled non-sound that reminds him of the times he's contested various Obfuscate-like powers without quite succeeding. Wondering if the gun shots are vampire-related, the two head towards the sound.

You can find all of this adventures' articles over here.


A replayed song from the Fahrenheit Soundtrack.


Funnily enough, both characters have well over 100 experience points on their sheet yet I'm really not worried that they'll be overpowered. New World of Darkness sheets sure know how to soak up experience. Besides, neither of them are dedicated combat characters.

I made gun laws less restricted in this World of Darkness version of Adelaide because I want to ramp up the sense that the streets are so dangerous you can't just rely on the law. It's also important to help the characters feel comfortable getting involved without feeling like the Law will be breathing down their neck every step of the way - which would encourage a realistic yet boring response to the horror, like running and hiding.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three Act Structure In Sessions

I find that you can give each session a greater sense of accomplishment when you loosely give it a Three Act structure. Act I establishes a problem. Act II allows them to discover more about that problem. Act III is where they resolve that problem. True, you can break almost everything down into those three stages (every dice roll, in fact) but it has greater importance for adventures as sometimes you can get whole sessions that drift along without much happening. This is fine if it comes out of the adventure naturally or if the players (or you) are particularly interested in that sort of campaign, but it can help to have an idea of a situation that can be established, investigated, and resolved in most sessions.

While on an Adventure level, the Three Acts all combine to follow an overarching story, such as in a murder mystery where you must bring the killer to justice, on a session level the Acts can go off on tangents so long as they're somewhat related.

For example, on an Adventure level:

Act I: A woman is found dead in a hotel room. The characters take a look around the crime scene and figure out that a vampire is involved and thus they can't rely on the police to deal with it. The problem is thus defined for them: Identify and deal with the vampire.

Act I: The players investigate various vampires and try to figure out who might have done it and why. This is also where they decide if they'll get involved and what they're going to do about it.

Act III: The players actually attempt to resolve the situation. Perhaps they try to convince the Prince to punish him or perhaps they try to kill him themselves.

Here's an example on a Session level:

Act I establishes that a murder has been committed and the characters arrive at the hotel.

Act II reveals that the receptionist with the key to the crime scene needs help with her husband who's badly shaken up from the whole ordeal.

Act III involves the players helping the husband deal with the trauma.

See how it's tangental to the over-arching adventure plot while still following it's own internal logic? It still follows the Discovery, Investigation, Resolution format. These three acts could take about 10 minutes or could take an entire session depending on the players and their interests in this particular NPC. It doesn't matter if the players cycle through the acts several times in a session, only that they make some progress and cycle through them at least once. Otherwise, a session can feel a bit bogged down.

Having said that, the occasional session where nothing much happens can make for a fantastically enjoyable one but as a general rule, I personally find it better when there's an identifiable goal discovered, its details learned, and something resolved, all in the same session. Of course, every campaign and every group of players are different. It's just something to bear in mind.

Whole bunch of Fan Supplements for WoD

Take a look at this link to find other links to a whole bunch of Fan Supplements for the World of Darkness, including one for a Silent Hill conversion that's pretty damn good.

Shadows Campaign: Spreading Corruption

For this session, I managed to get another of my old Troupire players to reprise his original role of the Taifa Gangrel, Hassan, from the Circle of the Crone. It sure made it a lot easier for me to run since there were minimal NPCs in this bit so I got to focus on the atmosphere of the place and the various clues they came across. I wanted to establish a sense of mystery and danger right from the out-set. Nowhere is truly safe for them. Outside in the dark, there are spontaneous abberations of shadow that may come from them. Inside in the light, there is human observation and vampire needs that can create a volatile mix. Unless they're at home in their own havens, but with the current praxis seizure, that may not be safe either.

In this episode Hassan and James Tyler meet to discuss the praxis seizure near an abandoned hotel in the Adelaide Hills. Hearing two gunshots, they head to the source and find a camp-site where something large has tunneled up beneath three campers and devoured them, leaving a head and two hands in one of the freshly churned sections of dirt. Following the tracks of the shooter, they pass one of the camper's homes and upon investigation find something hiding in the dog house. They hear the dog growling but even their Auspex can't pierce the shadows inside. The dog starts barking and the teenaged occupant of the house calls out for the dog to shut up but when it doesn't she promises to come downstairs. Hassan and James are forced to confront the dog and kill it before it has a chance to kill the girl.

I figured I'd do things a little differently since this is a horror session I've done. I'm going to give a detailed run down of this session, providing you with monster statistics, music titles used, and detailing the considerations I had when creating this session, I'm going to break it up into four other articles and release them over the next four days. They will be:

Act I: Eagle-on-the-Hill
Act II: Dead Campers
Act III: Bad Dog
Monster Statistics: Shadow Hound

Links will be put into place as I've put them up. By the way, I took a lot of inspiration for this adventure while writing the Alan Wake Game Translation. I hope you enjoy the analysis.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Game Translation: Alan Wake

Alan Wake is a psychological horror game where the titular character goes to Bright Falls for a holiday to try and help him break through his writer's block. While there, his wife drowns under mysterious circumstances and the entire cabin disappears. Alan Wake must follow a trail of clues leading through the dangerous nights and the safe(r) days, in order to find and reunite with his wife while other interests try to piece together a book he doesn't even remember writing.

This is a game where horrors lurk in shadows and where the darkness can literally try to kill you. Alan must seek out light sources to hide within, find ways to switch lights on (often after power outages), and use his flashlight to stun and slow down the shadow possessed before shooting them dead. During battles with the enemy, it's vital to position yourself so that you have enough time to slow them down and shoot them and then run off to allow your flashlight to re-charge before the next enemy strikes.

The main difficulty with any darkness-based enemy in pen-and-paper games is that the flashlight is often either too powerful or not enough. Unless they have some sort of super-powerful flashlight, there's no reason why there'd be a re-charge period and without one of those it's harder to make it a tactical consideration. One trick would be to simply use multiple enemies and have the stunning effect wear off quickly when the character switches to a new target, but this can become clunky when you have four players. Requiring one player to work the flashlight while the others focus fire (by giving them astonishing healing rates unless struck multiple times in the same turn) could work to renew a tactical element in the game.

The other trick is to allow flashlights to stun them relatively easily, but make the creatures themselves hard to spot. They are born of shadows (or possessed by them), after all, so playing hide-and-seek should come naturally to them. If the possessed make for good contortionists, have them cling to ceilings or reach out through holes in fences. Make them fast and choose their moments carefully. This is also important because, in truth, horror in roleplaying games is dampened when the enemy takes too many casualties as it emboldens the players and encourages them to run and gun more.

Bearing in mind that a set of fresh batteries can last twenty four hours, it can be tricky to deprive characters of their protection from the light. An easy way out of this is to make it that the shadow creatures seem to absorb the light, which causes more strain on the flashlight, as reality tries to compensate by drawing on more battery power. Either that, or just try to break the flashlight itself, with a telekinetically lifted book case or, perhaps in later stages, a car.

Off Road Driving's Never Been So Much Fun

There's a real sense of a thriller television series in the episodic format used in this game which provides a greater sense of structure and narrative than is normally found in videogames. This also helps the tension by providing a real sense of pacing. The episodes each start in the daylight and work their way into the night, allowing for numerous quiet points to ratchet up the tension through contrast. In most games, you only have a single descent into darkness with the odd restful moment within that nasty world. The Alan Wake multiple day format allows for frequent comparisons to the normal world and gives the whole thing a bit more impact.

The main problem you're likely to face if you try to implement this system in a pen-and-paper is that by allowing the adventure to continue over multiple days and nights, your players will be tempted to do the smart thing and stay inside at night. Even during the day, they're unlikely to go into dark buildings or basements, at least not without punching holes in the walls or driving a car in through the front door. They're also likely to do as Barry did and dress themselves up in lights like a Christmas tree or come up with even more outlandish attempts to stave off the enemy. While these are all realistic and immersive reactions to this kind of situation, it can lead to the players stubbornly digging their heels in and refusing to deal with the plot. If this happens, then the game will either grind to a halt or move in fits and starts as you drag them along by the teeth.

The real trick here is during character creation. Convince them to create characters so motivated to find the solution NOW that they're never willing to wait until dawn. They'll follow the clues they have now as soon as they find them. Of course, depending on your players, they may or may not be able to put aside their pragmatism. Especially when characters start dying. In which case you can always make it more of an apocalyptic survival game where everything decays around them until they either die or act.

Or just have them play vampires. Then they can't avoid going out at night.

The other age-old question is how to discourage the players from trying to mash through the enemy rather than treat them with fearful respect. My suggestion would be to make them hard to hit unless light is used against them. Give them ACs so high the best fighter in the party can only hit them if they roll an 18 or above. Throw in a Miss Chance of 20%, or even 50%. Or in the World of Darkness, give them bonuses to Defense (+3 is enough in most cases) on top of their own defense (allow it to function against firearms, too). Make it possible, but too difficult to hope for. If you simply give them more hit points so they can take a beating, then players will be tempted to GIVE them a beating and win through a battle of attrition. If they simply don't get touched by a beating, players will look for another method.

The episodic structure in Alan Wake also includes cliffhangers and a central theme, or mini-plot, that Alan Wake must get through before the next episode begins. These are relatively easy to implement in a roleplaying game. Simply come up with some greater question or tension-inducing aspect to end on most sessions and structure the next session around that. Of course, since it takes a lot longer to play through a segment of a roleplaying game than it does through a videogame it might be worthwhile to focus around a couple essential scenes grouped around a similar theme rather than try to work in an entire plot line that may or may not be followed.

A campaign based around Alan Wake, or including elements of it, would certainly appeal to Tacticians who will quickly figure out the most intelligent way to handle the threat. Sprinkle a few clues around to some greater mystery and involve some oddball NPCs with their own goals and motivations and you'll keep Investigators happy. Explorers probably will enjoy taking a look at the different situations and seeing how odd the occult side of this world can get. Action Heroes are likely to get bored and frustrated as are Communicators who will want to bunker down and see how the various NPCs react to these claustrophobic events.

If you'd like to take a look at the trailer to learn more about it, you can check it out here. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that Dead Island used, you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Fahrenheit, The Sims 3, Half Life 2, Prototype, Skyrim, Deus Ex, L.A. Noire, The Last Express, Realms of the Haunting, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be Deus Ex. If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flashpoint: Investigations

This was a cool session though also a funny one because the players in both this session and the last kept ignoring the Lubor's Office lead in favor of dredging up other ones that go off the adventure path railroad. It's all good because their ideas were logical -- but therein also lay the problem. The adventure assumes they came from inland and then follow the path to the docks whereas they came in from the sea. The adventure also assumes that they don't simply search the docks for the Hydra's Fang (particularly the dry docks for any major repairs). In truth, since in the adventure it's just sitting amongst the other ships there's no reason why a cursory inspection of the harbor wouldn't spot it fairly quickly.

So of course Archer immediately searched the dry docks and then came back the following day to bribe the person in charge of the dry docks for access to the files. On the way a man tried to sell them Pesh and became obsessed with the idea that the tiefling, Lhye, would buy it off him. Proteus told him that he didn't trust anyone who didn't sample his own wares so the man promptly did and became more fixated. Lenny knocked him down with a punch and the man ran off, still telling Lhye to come find him.

Then they were mobbed with kids trying to sell shell jewelery and even feathers dyed red that they said was from a griffon (they were gull feathers). When Lhye said that griffons were white, they promptly said that it was a special, magic griffon that lived nearby. Proteus distracted most of them by showing the nine kids eight coppers and saying that one would miss out before tossing the coins behind them. Eight kids ran off.

One, the smallest six-year-old waited, and asked for a silver to run off. Lhye, admiring her spirit, asked if he could keep her. The child said it would cost him a gold and everyone was a little disturbed that she might be trying to be a prostitute until she clarified that it would cost a gold to 'abopted her' (yes, typo is intentional). Proteus told Lhye he couldn't keep her but she hung around, demanding a gold from Lhye so she could be abopted. She then started playing with his tail (he took the prehensile tail variant) and even bit it to see if it was real when Lenny lifted her up by the hair. Proteus gave her a sleep potion and she rolled a 17 and passed.

Ahh, True Neutral Adventurers. He could've given her a gold piece to make her run and eat well for a few days but instead he wasted a 25gp potion on trying to render her unconscious so that they could dump her somewhere.

They kept walking, Lenny holding her by the hair and the kid with her arms crossed stubbornly across her chest. They went to the dry dock official. For a shiny gold piece, they were told that it limped off a couple days ago but wasn't provisioned for a major voyage and was likely moved elsewhere. I dropped another hint about him owing Lubor money. I also dropped a bit of a clue that there were Lacedon on the ship that someone glimpsed.

Archer asked for anyone who might have seen the ship leave and they were directed to a lovely old lady who sold pot pies and tea. He bribed with a shiny gold piece (in exchange for a pie and a tea cup) and she immediately told him that he'd mistaken gold for copper (she sold the pie and tea combo for three copper pieces). He told her he was an investor so she made him out a receipt. Anyway, she told him that the captain of the Hydra's Fang was an arrogant Chelish man who'd had an argument with Lubor and owed the Consortium quite a bit. Archer then enquired as to where they could track down the Consortium Headquarters (le sigh) and she said that only those members who had a personal stake in the issue would be interested (*hint* Lubor *hint*). She also told them his ship was a galliot and that he may have hidden it in the Underdocks. Proteus also bribed the little girl with a pie (she immediately demanded two, so he added a tea) if she'd leave them alone. She agreed and went over to sit on the edge of the docks and eat.

Archer realised that if he pulled down the lateen sails and perhaps dismantled the masts he could row her in like a large row boat into the underdocks. So they promptly set off down a greased ladder and saw greasy footprints leading off into the hole in the side of one of two stone bunkers. Archer, Proteus and Lunjun went to talk to the various people who generally docked down here (mostly fishermen) and found out that any boat of that size would be more likely to be docked in the western Underdocks and if they spoke to the guards over there they could be directed to the right place.

Meanwhile, Lenny waited by the ladder and Lhye went over to follow the footprints but stopped before the entrance hole. He suggested Lenny go in there, which she did. Someone cast Flare in front of her, but neither she, Lhye, or Lunjun Siva (who was peering in as well) were blinded. Two 'Blurred' figures (who'd drunk Potions of Blur and Potions of Darkvision) shot arrows at her. She charged one and decapitated him despite the miss chance. Lhye shot an arrow and missed. A third enemy cast Obscuring Mist but Lenny managed to find the second archer when he came up to hit her - and she decapitated him in one hit as well. Lhye cast Detect Magic (Lunjun simply checked to identify the spells cast).

The caster successfully tumbled away from Lenny and through a small hole (Acrobatics check - rolled a natural 20) but Lenny grabbed her by the ankle and dragged her out. They threatened her and she confirmed that the galliot was moved every couple days and was likely in the western underdocks. She and her friends had fled the ship because of disturbing noises below decks. She didn't know anything about any Lacedon (or Lacy-whats-its, as she called them). They knocked her out and there the session ended.

I'm figuring they're avoiding the Lubor link because they don't want to get tangled up in the Consortium or risk Du Moire finding out. It just goes to show that adventure writers really don't think of everything because there are multiple avenues for looking for Du Moire and without literally hiding the ship the players could have so much as climbed a bell tower to see it (if they had a spyglass).

The encounter I ran was from the book (Katiya and the thugs) and I used the Tier 1 - 2 option but with the Tier 4 - 5 potions to boost them a little bit.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure Lhye still wants to 'abopt' that kid.

Monday, June 25, 2012

WoD To Do Series & Other Options

At the moment I've been doing the WoD To Do Series as I've gained inspiration or greater interest in a clan or covenant but I thought it'd be worth asking you guys if you'd like to see it as a regular series or if you're quite happy with simply getting them whenever. If it were a regular series, is there anything else you'd rather see?

On that note, is there any interest in me writing up my adventure notes so you can run them yourselves? One way or another, I'll likely do a few of them up but they won't be all that common unless there's a need for them because, well, it's a fair bit of writing and revising to keep it concise yet explanatory.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shadows Campaign: Destruction of the Status Quo

With this campaign, I intercut between the solo player's three characters which gave it a greater sense of everything happening, and changing, at once. It all dealt with a single night where Alder Torelli seized praxis from Prince Vinnie Celino. I'll tell you how it went down with the intercuts depicted with a ---.

Here we go:

Lord James Tyler awakens, checks on his current cases, and then receives a phone call from Lady Gloria Brown requesting that he head down to McLaren Vale to meet her at a particular cottage. James heads there only finds that he's just missed her. The woman who lives in the cottage reassured him that Gloria would be back shortly. He settles down to wait.


Prince Vinnie Celino is holding court in the S.A. Art Gallery which is the traditional elysium for Adelaide. Various court members are mentioned as being present and in conversation. The Invictus arrive en masse (except for James Tyler) with Alder Torelli in the lead. Even ex-Sheriff Richard Blackwolf, a vampire who was killed in the troupe campaign, is present though Vinnie killed him decades ago.

The Carthian, Amity Fine, left the room - likely to call in reinforcements or do something else helpful. No one stops her.

Alder Torelli says that if Prince Vinnie relinquishes his praxis and gives Torelli all of his resources, Vinnie would be allowed to live.

Vinnie simply said: "You know how this ends."

Then he popped Gangrel claws and launched himself at Alder Torelli. Smoky tentacles erupted from Alder Torelli, slamming Vinnie against the ceiling and tearing at him with tiny claws, though when he batted at it the tentacles had no form and his hands passed through them. The tentacle dropped him to the ground and he fled, attempting to grab Lady Gloria Brown on the way out.

His Carthians also fled. Checkers Pockets became a rat. Marianne and Leon Perelli used Celerity to get to the door. J.J., thankfully, wasn't present as he was a Ventrue wannabe Gangrel. Amity Fine had already left the room.

Leon paused at the door, firing at Torelli, to give his allies a chance to get out, and was slammed by a tentacle up and through the roof for his efforts.

Then begins a desperate race where Vinnie shoulder slams door after door to get out as the shadow tentacles wildly lash out, destroying walls and supportive pillars, causing the building to make horrible groans of imminent destruction. Vinnie paused only to warn a janitor to flee as well before swiping a key card at the back door and rushing out with Marianne. The janitor made it as well before the building collapsed on his feet.

Vinnie pulled him loose, ran around to the front of the building and found Leon lying smashed on the sidewalk surrounded by a small crowd of people. Vinnie put the janitor in a taxi, sent it to the hospital, and picked up Leon's body (no one got in his way though they commented on it) and he fled with Leon's torpored body and Marianne to his car.

They made their way back to the Vinnie's Blood Brother's bikie gang hideout - a big, fortified street - only to find it surrounded by cop cars. They kept driving and Marianne headed back under Obfuscate while Vinnie waited in the car.


James Tyler waits for fifteen minutes then tries Gloria's phone but find that she doesn't answer. He then tries his pseudo-sire, Peter Walsh's, phone (both his normal and his secret one) but both of them seem to be out of range or disconnected (in truth, destroyed). Nervous now, he calls Persephone Trent who's a Mekhet Lynx who would never be without her phone ... but she hangs up on him.

He calls his childe, an Ordo Dracul called Juliette Tyler, and learns that the art gallery has collapsed. Juliette offers to try to reach Persephone as they share a covenant and Persephone is more prone to answering the phone for her. James hangs up and calls Hassan, learning that with his Occult Vision he saw some shadowy miasma flash across the city and several in certain sections. Hassan is currently in the Adelaide Hills and offers to meet with James Tyler at the Eagle on the Hill, which is a known werewolf meeting point where the kindred have met with a particular pack on a few occasions.

James hears back from Persephone about what had happened at the Art Gallery and realises that the Invictus tried to keep him out of the way so as not to risk testing his loyalty to his Ordo Dracul sire, Peter Walsh. The Ordo Dracul and the Carthians are pretty tight in this city, after all. The Ordo Dracul had put Prince Vinnie Celino in power due to their fear of the previous Invictus Prince, Dimloch.


Seamus O'Baoill is the Ordo Dracul kogaian and he doesn't bother attending court lately. Instead, he'd gone down south to Aldinga Beach to examine a particular abandoned house that was growing an odd yellowish-green mold that they figured might be the corruptive fungus found in an earlier adventure a few decades ago. On closer inspection, it looks like an entirely different species.

He has Blood Tenebrous so when that shadowy miasma rolls across the city, he feels it itch along his spine as though something were watching him. Unfortunately, he's in a spot where the miasma has settled. At about this time, a man heads inside the building with a flashlight, perhaps the owner got tipped off that there might be a vandal inside.

Seamus sneaks outside and hides behind the window, using Witch's Cloak (a Vedma bloodline power) to be hard to spot as he peers inside. He can see that there's some bugs, somewhat like cockroaches, that are buzzing around a shadowy corner that is a deeper shadow than the rest. The man comes in and looks around before flashing his light upstairs.

Some of those bugs lift up into the air and then slam into the back of his neck, burrowing inside. His neck snaps left once the first bug burrows inside, then right after the second one does, then hangs limply to one side as the others infest him, before he finally turns in a shuddering motion toward Seamus who simply points his light at it (he's dealt with photo-sensitive beings before) but the corpse is unfazed and shambles toward him.

The corpse hits the window pane and falls through, landing on its face and twitching its limbs until it slowly starts getting in a position where it might be able to lift itself. Seamus doesn't stop to watch and see what happens. He just hops on his bicycle and starts heading back toward the city, calling Duchess Alicia Brown (a pseudo Invictus who was responsible for guiding the building of the city according to principles of sacred geometry).

She informed him as to the praxis seizure and asks to come in from the cold and become a known Ordo Dracul as Torelli is her rival and there was no telling what he might do. Besides which, she wants to focus on her Grand Experiment. She offers to come and pick him up on the highway and he hangs up but keeps cycling because, well, he's a lot slower than her.

Seamus notices that chunks of the road seem free of that itchy sensation and others are not. He also spots a car in one of the itchy zones which has pulled over to the side of the road, interior lights on, and passenger side door open. The car's speakers were loudly blaring classic rock songs. Fearing what he might find inside, or what the car might mean, he gave it a wide berth and kept going until Duchess Alicia Brown finds him.

They head over to the Torrens River and cross it to get to the Ordo Dracul haven deep inside Torrens Island. People are wary of Alicia Brown but Seamus claims that he'd known she was Ordo Dracul all along and that she'd had approval from the Sworn of Dying Light (back when they had some in this city).


Marianne returns to Vinnie with the blood bags out of his refrigerator and he feeds it to Leon so that he'll have enough blood to heal and, ideally, awaken when he automatically heals one lethal the following night. Marianne informs him that a few of his bikies shot up the rest - odds are Dominate was involved. Most of his bikies are injured or dead. Only a few are still alive.

Vinnie maintains his cool in the face of this frenzy risk, and they head over to his small, secret haven in the Maid & Magpie to wait out Leon's torpor and plan out his next move.

Wow, that was uber-long and it had been only a four hour session. Does anyone read these posts? If so, did you want them smaller? More detailed? No preference?

Intercutting Technique

With a particular solo campaign I tried my hand at intercutting between a player's three different characters. They were all vampires and they were in different situations during a praxis seizure. I treated the session like a television episode and when an important moment came up or a scene ended I'd switch to another one. If you'd like to read more on how it actually went down, take a look at this Shadows Campaign post.

It worked really well for me as every time I ran out of steam, or that character didn't have much to do, I could cut away to the next character. It also kept the player from getting bored or frustrated when one character hit a dead end and had to twiddle their thumbs for a short while. It also reinforced the sense that something big was happening as the player got to experience what was happening to each of the characters within the same time frame.

From a player perspective, the technique didn't work as well because my fiance had to re-calibrate his Point of View, his knowledge, and his motives with each swap. He enjoyed it for the first session but expressed an interest in returning to the usual style with further sessions which works for me. Of course, different players may vary with their interest in this depending on if they can switch between mind-sets easily or even if they're just a big fan of the technique.

I wouldn't suggest doing this with an entire party of players as they'll each take a different length of time in switching mind-sets and some may be entirely unsuccessful at it and get confused. A party also always takes more time to come to any decision or finish their actions than a single player anyway so you won't get as many inter-cuts even if you choose to do it.

Still, it all boils down to your skill and your players' attitude, so give it a go if you think it will work but give them plenty of fair warning and see if you can get them on board first. If it doesn't work, oh well. If it does, then you have yet another technique in your arsenal.

So, have any of you tried to inter-cut? Did it work?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Play-by-Post: Heat It Up!

One thing I've noticed is that over the months and even years of gameplay over a forum, the game itself can tend to bog down or even stall occasionally. Other than the need to inject new blood and perhaps devise the odd trick to separate players who've dropped out of posting so that the game doesn't stall for their return, there's also a need to turn up the heat sometimes.

Sometimes the players are genuinely distracted by real life issues, but sometimes they run out of things to do or their motivation sags or the tension just dissipates from the game. Often the best thing to do here is to turn up the heat and get things really cranking. Have a thug accost them or some cultists interrupt them or a rival group try to steal their information (or succeed) or draw in some kind of Mythos encounter or have them stumble across a big clue that all is not what it seems to turn the game on its head.

While forum games are slow, they do require pacing just as any form of entertainment media does, especially story-based ones. Take that to your advantage and inject some adrenaline whenever interest seems to be petering out.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Adventure Design: Arbitrary Limitations

In my Dystopic Campaign, I have an entire world full of adventures where each town or city could be drastically different to the other. While my players' character choices and development have helped me develop sections of the globe, it still doesn't really answer where I should set the next adventure. This is made all the worse by the fact that they are a roaming group who are given quests whose repercussions will create positive change. Due to this rather broad mandate, and the super-faction's fiendish talents at Patterns rituals to detect how certain acts (from doing a major tag unseen at a busy intersection to assassinating a corporate CEO) can benefit the world.

So in other words, I have a lot of scope. Too much scope. I'm sitting there scratching my head wondering where I should toss them first.

In comes Arbitrary Limitations. I turned to my players and asked each one a question. I asked one for a movie, another for a song, another for a number, another for a location, and another for some newspaper articles. What I got was Pulp Fiction, 'Simply Irresistable', 3, Leon - France, and newspaper articles on people being thought dead in Third World Countries who woke up again.

I took this information and gave myself permission to interpret these in any possible way. After all, they're arbitrary limitations. They don't necessarily have to mean anything and I could discard any of it I couldn't work with. However, I could certainly draw inspiration from them.

So I've decided on a quest set in Leon, which is a tourist town set around a lake in France, with a decidedly 1980s theme due to the Pulp Fiction and song suggestions. I know Pulp Fiction was released in 1994 but to me it means the 1980s. They've taken to the whole Greed is Good, Ambition is Everything, and are concerned with drug abuse and criminality. I also mixed in the kind of innocent naievete common to 1980s culture and media and have set the quest during a School Reunion. Sure, not strictly Pulp Fictiony but it fits the song choice and the location.

'Simply Irresistable' made me think about vampires, so in this region vampires are an accepted fact. The Masquerade more defines the unsavoury information about vampires - the Beast, frenzies, the fact that their version of True Blood is simply a palatable substance to them and not at all nutritious. It also kind of works with the whole 'dead aren't dead' vibe from the newspaper articles, though I'm hoping to include a more literal reading of them into the quest. I won't tell you how because that may contain spoilers.

The number I interpreted to be the expected length of this adventure: about three sessions.

So what about next time? Next time I do this I may ask for another number, but I may re-interpret it to mean the number of suspects, or what-not. Or I might just make that number a motif. Or I won't include it at all and will ask for some other random thing (perhaps a location, perhaps an object) that I'll work into the story.

Is this a bit of a cheesy way to go about it? Well, it can be. However, it can also be a lot of fun to take a few random elements and weave a really strong storyline out of it. It all depends on how imaginative you can be and how much license you give yourself to play with things. The most important thing is that I've had a lot of fun with it.

Have you done anything similar?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Game Translation: Fallout 3

"War. War never changes." Fallout is a post-apocalyptic game set after a nuclear war irradiates America, causing mutations and horrifically burned 'ghouls' who are humans who didn't escape into a Vault and yet somehow survived the nuclear war. In this era, barter is the new economy, though bottle caps can be used as a more regular form of currency. Fall Out 3 casts you as a person living in Vault 101 who has to flee a rather complicated situation where the Vault Overseer tries to arrest you due to your father leaving the vault. You then spend the rest of the game trying to track your father down.

This is a game of quests. Many quests. Each new location you find may well have a quest contained there, either implied in various notes or a full quest that pops up in your quest log. In fact, you won't find a society in the game that doesn't have quests (except for the ones filled with drug-crazed psychos that attack on sight). If the town has people who will talk to you, they'll ask you to do things. This generally is blended into the game a bit better than in Skyrim where some of their requests feel a bit out of the blue: "Okay, stranger, take this valuable gem over to the merchant for me" though not by much.

If you're using so many quests in a roleplaying game, it's a good idea to keep a map handy to document where you have to hand in all of those quests. Oh, and some kind of quest log wouldn't go astray either. To really get the wide open sense of this place, you shouldn't go with the usual themes of the players having a choice of places to go and then getting the same quest wherever they go and having them follow that quest until they complete it. Oh no, they should have the opportunity to get a list of quests, choose between them, and then fulfill them in any order they please.

On the note of quests, one of the ones I really liked involved finding scrap metal for Megaton. I just like the idea of being able to slowly help this society repair their home and while it doesn't have much of an effect in-game, if this were a role-playing game there'd be a lot of mileage you could get out of it with a new and improved Megaton slowly emerging out of a quest pile.

In fact, that reminds me of one of the major opportunities that does come up in all of the Fallout series. The opportunity to bring certain societies or towns to ruin or prosperity through your actions and your choices. You can do this in Fallout 3 in a really big way with Megaton near the start of the game. You can also do it to great effect in Fallout 2 as well. In post-apocalyptic societies where a single can of baked beans can be the difference between life and death, there should be that chance to feel like you really are making a difference on a more visceral level than your usual 'well, I killed the killers' level that most games resort to.

There's also a huge map that you can roam all over and certain parts of the map contain key locations, whether just an interesting site of toxic waste and broken cars, or a small outpost, or a shop, or a quest-giving NPC. This makes exploration a key element of the campaign.

Your best bet to integrate this aspect into the game is to create a map similar to that found in Pathfinder's Kingmaker with some sort of grid design laid over it. This map would contain all of the key locations and some of the plot ideas. The grid could let you know where the players are and let the players know where they're going. Give the players a blank page with a copy of the grid over it and they can choose where they explore and you can tell them what happens when they go there. Afterwards, you could even give them a tiny photocopy of the hex from your sheet to glue into place so they can have a little icon or image to help them remember what was there. This won't necessarily break immersion since the nature of the adventures will mean that there might be many sessions between choosing one or more hexes to journey through.

It's like the Pipboy feels your pain. Poor pipboy!

Then there's the damage system where you can either take damage to your overall health or to your various limbs (requiring a more specific healing system at times where you select a broken limb to repair). This is probably a little bit too much paperwork for most people to enjoy although in a game where people must really try to avoid damage, having them crawl around because both their legs are broken or burned is kind of a cool idea. I wouldn't use this in a Fallout-style game just because of the extra clunk, but in a full horror game you might want to assign hit points per body part and then make random rolls to see which one gets damaged.

Since many of the horrors of a post-apocalyptic wasteland also relies on the terrors of the moment of apocalypse, which happened a fair while ago, Fallout relies on apocalyptic logs to let us know the last minute experiences of those who died during the initial fall out or even what the world was like pre-apocalypse. This is important because, well, let's face it. If Fallout were to be our future, we'd likely only see the apocalyptic moments so those are the moments that have the best chance to resonate with us.

This is an easy aspect of the videogame to bring into a pen-and-paper game. Simply create props of the documents they find or verbally ad-lib them on the fly when they find audio recordings or other such details. To do this, though, you'll need a good grasp on what people used to be like in that location and what sorts of issues may have arisen. It may be unrealistic, but do keep such logs to the more interesting moments. Even the boring "Hello Bob, I could use a spanner" emails should still add a few rich details to the universe, such as pointing out that the mega-corporation they worked for put all the spanners into some sort of time-share arrangement. Otherwise, don't waste the players' time describing boring moments that don't add anything to the game.

A campaign based around Fallout 3, or including elements of it, would certainly appeal to Explorers as you spend a lot of time roaming a wide open environment, seeing new societies, and choosing whichever mission most interests them at the time. It also works for Tacticians and Action Heroes due to the high and frequent levels of violence that allow for an ideal mix of sniping, sneaking, and just running up and smacking things. There are some notes and the odd case to solve for the Investigators and plenty of NPCs to keep the Communicators happy. So in the end, a campaign based off this videogame should work out for all of the play styles though the first three will have the most fun here.

If you'd like to take a look at the trailer to learn more about the game, you can check it out here. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that Fallout 3 used, you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, The Sims 3, Half Life 2, Prototype, Skyrim, Deus Ex, The Last Express, Mass Effect, Realms of the Haunting, Alan Wake, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be Alan Wake.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flashpoint: The Hydra's Fang

So I integrated the Hydra's Fang the other day by having the Andoren Navy order now Commander Archer to take the pinnace out to the Isle of Kortos to kill the Chelish Du Moire and take back the tablets he stole before the Chelish government are able to come through on their promise. Lhye wanted to return to Riddleport, of course, to save his mother but in the last session they agreed to use Proteus free teleportations to send them all to Riddleport afterwards.

Before they set out, however, they needed five more crew members and so Proteus headed out to get some likely looking lads. He headed out to Augustana's Inner Harbor fisheries and stopped by a one-room taproom where the bartenders served grog and beer out of barrels using old crockery and even ladels as mugs when the place grew very busy. It was only a copper piece per drink. There wasn't much in the way of chairs or tables either, as this place was in Copperdown, just a few old and broken barrels cut in half and upended.

Anyway, Proteus hired on Five-Fingers Mutt (who had four fingers on one hand, one on the other, and both thumbs) who was a big and tattooed Mwangi-looking man who spoke in very refined Common with a slight Andoren accent. Not thinking to check on his references (which is unsurprising given the location), Proteus hires him on and when Mutt offers the services of his friends, Proteus accepts them as well.

So they set off to the Isle of Kortos and arrive there in relatively good time despite the fact that they had to tack into the wind the whole time (damn South Easterlies). Once there, once there they had to get a pass for them to bring their ship through the maze of rafts and little boats and into the docks themselves. As they lacked a rowboat, Proteus had to swim over to the Harbourmaster's House and met with a man stoned on devilweed, smoking a devilweed cigar, who was on the verge of greening out.

As Proteus had no cargo to declare, he was allowed to hire a bay and come into the Isle of Kortos for five silvers. With a clever Bluff check and some misdirection, Proteus tricked the Harbourmaster (if indeed, that was who he was) into giving him an additional pass - this one, however, the Harbourmaster simply signed and gave over to Proteus to put in his own ship name. Instead of filling in all the details, Proteus misdirected him again and slipped it in a sleeve. Oh, also the Harbourmaster told Proteus he could get a lot of gold and work at a rather exotic brothel that has rather exotic male prostitutes.

The Harbourmaster couldn't direct him to a free bay so Proteus was directed to a woman called Raimi who had a tracery of red scales around her face and a red, scaly tail, who dressed like someone out of Assassin's Creed and was surrounded by a half dozen similarly dressed individuals sitting on a crenellated outdropping by one of the broken sea walls. She gave him the right directions. Proteus then headed back to his boat and Wellard carefully piloted the pinnace (a small vessel) through the maze and to the correct bay.

They then went from tavern to tavern, trying to find out more information, until they were directed to the 'The Tail' tavern which had swordfish tails nailed to the outside. During this, they pass a brothel set up in a church of Iomedae (homespun plot, not in the Pathfinder Society scenario). It was the very same brothel Proteus had been directed to earlier!

They go to 'The Tail' tavern and are hooted at for being rich and told they should buy everyone a round. Archer slips off to one side in all the commotion and Lenny ends the heckles with a single glare (natural 20 on an Intimidate check). Proteus slips off back to the brothel, hoping to find more information there. Lenny is plied with free rum to placate her. Lhye hears a wasp but can't see it and it slowly leads him back to the brothel. Archer ends up heading off with Lunjun to look for the drydocks to see if the Hydra's Fang is currently in there and undergoing repairs.

Proteus requests a chance to prostitute himself at the brothel and is offered the chance, and one of the main 'connectors' asks him for his preference - male or female? Proteus responds 'pain' because they pay more. The connector nods and heads off to go and fetch a rather austere man who's into hot wax and paddles (they were worried they'd get a Kuthite). While they wait, Lhye comes along (led by a wasp) and requests the chance to seduce himself a female client but fails to impress when his Charm Person spell fails and she chooses Proteus instead.

Yeah, interesting that a brothel allows randoms to get paid in gold by their own clients, huh?

During all of this, Proteus and Lhye figure out that the two elf prostitutes can't understand elven and the gnome prostitute can't speak gnomish. As these languages are innate in the Pathfinder game, they figure out that they're not real elves / gnomes. Yet they look just right for an elf or gnome. They don't move like that either. Lhye makes a Knowledge Religion roll and figures out that someone 'could' be spending a lot of gold on Reincarnate spells to make for some exotic prostitutes.

Anyway, so a woman comes in wearing a breast plate, spiked gauntlets, and dark clothing whose ears and incisors are slightly pointed. They're all thinking she's a client and wondering whether she'd be submissive or dominant (she looks dominant) in bed. Lhye makes a suggestive comment to her and she marches up, grabs him by the back of the hair, and demands to know "What the hell do you think you're doing, boy?"

Lhye uses Hypnosis to convince her to turn and walk away (which she does) and takes the few rounds he has available to him in order to run back to Lenny in the tavern and pay for her protection with two gold pieces.

The Inquisitor (they're later told that's what she is) comes back to demand to speak with him and after some "No, don't wannas" from Lhye, the three of them go out onto the street. The Inquisitor demands to know what ritual made him since it seems highly unlikely that a tiefling that looks like famous Riddleport prostitute, Lavender Lil (she's not that famous to be known all the way out here), happens to be in that particular brothel. Lhye explains that he's her son. The Inquisitor rolls a 1 on her Sense Motive check and immediately believes he's lying but eventually leaves and goes back into the cathedral and upstairs.

Lhye went to follow her, only for Proteus' john to arrive (the hot wax guy) and offer double if Proteus were to join in. Proteus accepts. Lenny, who followed, is recognised as a bodyguard and supplied with warm mead and a nice place to sit during the duration. While they're servicing the customer (took an hour), the Inquisitor comes back out and leaves.

During a conversation with another prostitute afterwards, they gain the connection to the Consortium's Enforcer, Lubor, to whom Du Moire owes a substantial amount of money. Then they all return to their pinnace, the "Egress" and Lhye explains the situation to Archer who immediately figures that the prostitutes are sex slaves who are forced to work off their massive 'Reincarnate-sized' debts. Archer starts planning to kill the guy and raze the brothel to the ground.

The others aren't so sure about that plan....

Monday, June 18, 2012

Game Translation: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

In this first-person game, you play Jack Walters, a police detective with fantastic insight into the more disturbing cases. You begin the game with a call out by the Boston Police Department when a resident cult called the Brotherhood of Yith demands to speak to you rather than the police while taking cover in their manor. Soon enough, Jack encounters something that causes him to have amnesia for the next few years, after which he tries to make a living as a private investigator, actually investigating what he did himself during his period of amnesia between cases for other clients. His latest job is to find a missing grocer in the town of Innsmouth.

There is no HUD at all in this game. No icons or bullets or health meters on the screen. Walters' health, and sanity, can be measured by more immersive factors such as limping, shallow breathing, blurry vision, blood on the eyelids, and the sounds of whispering in the background. You can, of course, bring up the inventory and take a look at your injuries on a visual representation of your body (complete with broken bones protruding through your skin) but you can't watch your life counter tick down to death.

This can easily be brought about in a roleplaying game and works fantastically well in Changeling: the Lost and the BRP Call of Cthulhu systems, though the advice I'm about to give can be used in other games as well.

In Changeling, each character has a Clarity meter and the lower that becomes, the weaker their grip on reality. A low Clarity Changeling will soon begin hallucinating, and that's not even considering any derangements they pick up as they go along. Rather than telling them their Clarity, you could simply make the Clarity check and only tell them if they've picked up a derangement (as they often need to be roleplayed and picked by the player). You can then simply describe what they see and hear and leave it up to the character to discern if it's real or not. In a dark fantasy game, the mundane could be lies and the strange could be real.

In Call of Cthulhu BRP, most of the sanity mechanics revolve around roleplayed issues such as paranoia or hysteria. However, should they have hallucinations you could do much the same as what I've suggested for Changeling. It's hiding the hit points and the remaining sanity points that will really wreak havoc on the players here. If they don't know how far they are from permanent insanity or death, they're going to be even more cautious.

In all games, you can easily describe their injuries in terms of pain not just when they gain the injury but later on. Remind them of their fall from the balcony by describing their action as 'When you limp over to the statue, you see....' or 'Your head throbs as you get in the car and head home'. The more often you weave it in, the more realistic it becomes, and the more worried the players become. Be aware that this does decrease their willingness to get into combat, regardless of whether you hide their hit point tallies or not.

In the videogame, injuries have to be treated on an individual basis. Rather than simply applying a first aid kit to yourself, you have to apply certain items to certain injuries to regain full use of that body part. Sure, you can wait to heal over time but it's quite slow and inadvisible in combat.

You could do this in a roleplaying game though it's a more time-consuming mechanic to involve and should be kept for those hyper-realistic low-combat games. You'd need some sort of diagram of each character so that you can draw the injuries onto them and then let them figure out realistic ways to treat each injury. In a way, it'd function as a sort of a mini-game. I'd suggest steering clear of requiring X for Y and instead let them be inventive so that they can rip clean bed sheets for bandages rather than requiring that they find gauze.

If I had a wad of cash, I'd be staring at it too.

Be aware that the injuries themselves can be incredibly inventive - from ruptured disks to crushed larynxes - and that certain injuries can't realistically be treated by anything other than surgery, bed rest, and months of physiotherapy. You'd be better off dealing with dislocations, lacerations, blood noses, and bruising, rather than punctured lungs and broken pelvises. If you draw up a chart and make random rolls you'll sate the needs of player fairness and consistency, but you'll also create a bunch more work for yourself and some very clunky rules. It's probably best to leave this to the immensely story-driven games where rules take a back seat to story and where the players actually want to explore the horror of leaving someone behind because they took an injury that can't be easily treated.

The game involves several stealth sequences, a few chase sequences (involving locking doors desperately behind you), and some points where you have to strike out at overwhelming forces. Still, the main vibe it gives is one of investigation with you taking a look around at clues and exploring certain buildings for more information. There's also a few points where you have to resolve other people's issues - such as giving them alcohol - before moving on, which is reminiscent of adventure games.

This game includes a monster that you cannot kill. A shoggoth that attacks wildly with tentacles that you have to dodge. It's a good way to reinforce that guns aren't always the answer and it certainly added a lot of extra tension to the scene.

In a roleplaying game, you could do much the same by treating a monster as an environmental hazard until the players find some other method of killing it (i.e. dump a truck load of liquid nitrogen onto it). Just make the characters dodge around it or think creatively about their tactics, and have them take damage when they fail. If they attack the creature, either ignore the damage they roll or, if you want to be exceptionally cruel, have the creature react to it or bleed a little but don't ever let it die. Be aware that the latter option will encourage players to keep chipping away at it and they may die before realising that it was futile to try to kill it that way.

The sanity mechanic in Dark Corners of the Earth adds a nice touch to discourage people from staring too hard at all the gore and horror. It also reinforces real world reactions to incredible phenomena. There are several roleplaying games that have a sanity mechanic so I encourage you to take a look at them with a Google search if you want to introduce it in a game that doesn't already have it.

A campaign based around Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, or including elements of it, would certainly appeal to Investigators due to its focus on clues and mysterious cases. Tacticians will enjoy the mixture of combat, clever escape routes, investigations, and overwhelming enemy numbers that encourage stealth. Explorers would enjoy the occult aspects as well as some of the strange and mysterious places they would end up in. Action Heroes are likely to get frustrated when their attempts to gain control of the situation are foiled time and again. Communicators won't get much out of the tight-lipped inhabitants of the town.

If you'd like to take a look at the trailer to learn more about it, you can check it out here. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth used, you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, Fahrenheit, The Sims 3, Half Life 2, Prototype series, Silent Hill, Walking Dead, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Deus Ex, L.A. Noire, The Last Express, The Thing, Realms of the Haunting, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be Deus Ex. If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

WoD To Do With Clan Daeva, Part 3

So we've taken a look at Daeva moods, themes, and plot hooks and Daeva goals, motivations, and daily activities. I have a tendency to play Clan Daeva. Oh, I'll play other clan members as well but Daeva just really work for me. I think it's because they trick themselves into believing they feel emotions because their echoes play out more frequently. I like that. I find playing sociopaths generally dull. Having said that, my first Daeva character was a sociopath even as a human (non-violent, just lacked compassion and depth of emotion) so I guess I like to contradict myself.

Five Evocative Locations

The Art Deco Jazz Club: This beautiful, old-fashioned building, has an art deco facade and interiors that are decked out in creamy carpets and heavy wood. Glass chandeleirs hang from ceiling roses and lamps sit upon each table, providing ambient lighting in all of the right places, while a beautiful woman croons into a microphone on stage and a man in a three piece suit plays piano behind her.

The Art Gallery: With its stone colonnade around the front and many rooms filled with impressive paintings and stuffed, circular loungs, this is the sort of place where the rich, the influential, and the beautiful can rub elbows and feel like they truly matter in a world that values appearance over all.

The Race Track: During the day at the right times, this place is filled with jostling humans. Sometimes at night as well, especially during smash em up derbies. This place with its benches and few brick buildings is perfect for a group of Daeva who want to indulge their gluttony or adrenaline-echo urges with high speed races that are highly unlikely to kill them ... even if they crash.

The Yacht: Stylish, sophisticated, and potentially stormwracked if they're after some extra adrenaline-echoes at the time, the yacht gives Daeva an interesting place to gather and gossip away from prying eyes. The deck can also be more easily washed clean of blood, where necessary.

The Revolving Restaurant: A high place to view the city's sparkling lights, plus a rather unique experience as the top floor restaurant turns, this is the kind of thing that younger kindred may well rave about while still being stylish enough for the elders to somewhat enjoy.

Five NPCs

James Tyler: Embraced in the 1940s as a nomad monster hunter as part of a sire-childe pair, this kindred signed up with the Invictus for a nice pretense to run messages and gain access to finances. Recently though, he's moved into the city and set up shop as a private investigator which gives him a good pretext to eye off odd locations without too much attention from the higher ups.

Danny: Embraced at the tender age of 17 when he followed a pair of hunters into the wrong place, he was Embraced by accident when he was caught in the line of fire and an inexperienced vampire tried too hard to ghoul him and instead burned that willpower dot and made him a vampire. He's energetic and often confused, with little composure and a whole lot of resolve that allows him to fixate on whatever he's interested in at the time. He's a Carthian more by personality than any real ideology.

Julia Dannenburg: With Sloth as her vice, this Daeva has a habit of saying the more irritating things in a weary monotone as though the people she's talking to really just aren't worth the effort. As an Ordo Dracul, she always tries to get other people to do her work for her and then claim the credit.

Vivian Rogers: A Toreador Carthian through and through, he's obsessed with art work and anarchism so he mixes with uni students, artists, and the disaffected young adult culture, slowly grooming them to take on more ... active forms of protest to truly capture the attention of the world. To him, there'd be nothing better than claiming praxis against the backdrop of a city riot.

Gloria Brown: The typical Daeva Invictus. She's cool, calm, and collected, and tries not to let anything ruffle her but has a tendency to hold grudges for a very, very long time. She does what she's told, always speaks with impeccable politeness, and tries to distinguish herself from the riff raff that surrounds her.

Lit - Miserable
The Only Hope For Me Is You - My Chemical Romance
3oh 3 feat kesha - My first kiss
Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
Please don't leave me - Pink
Sarah McLachlan - Angel
Amanda Palmer - Runs in the Family
Marilyn Manson - Sweet Dreams
Knight Moves - Suzanne Vega
STARFUCKERS, Incorporated-Nine Inch Nails

Multiple Characters in a LARP - Yay or Nay?

I once ran a Vampire Troupe Game (Troupe means that it was disconnected from any other LARP games in the World of Darkness) which began with about 15 players who were either disgruntled with the Camarilla LARP or simply wanted an additional and different Vampire LARP game to supplement their gaming experience. Over time, I gained and lost players although as my pool of potential new players was quite low, I ended up with about six players before I cancelled the game.

Anyway, in this game I allowed players to have up to three characters and this had a number of benefits and drawbacks. It's really up to you in your LARP game as a Storyteller, or even as a Player, to decide which one is more problematic than the other.


Helps fill the gaps in court positions.
If you're bored, or have nothing to do that session, you can swap to a different character.
Gives you very different experiences and perspectives of the game and the characters within it.
It can create amusing situations where both your characters dislike each other (generally a good idea to help maintain distinction).
Those situations are all the more amusing if you're skilled at holding conversations with yourself (I've seen two characters played by the same player end up in a scuffle).
It helps fill out the clans and covenants so that no one is alone in any one covenant.
Multiple characters provide multiple plot threads and thus gives the game greater momentum.
Multiple characters provide more motivations for people to play around with.

Someone is bound to need to speak to a character othan than the one you are playing at the time.
Multiple positions can create a conflict of interest.
You will likely end up in the awkward position of knowing plots against your own character.
It is tricky to maintain boundaries between character knowledge as you may forget who knows what.
In attempting to keep in character knowledge separate, you might not realise that you really do have enough information for another character to figure it out.
Other players won't know where you got your information from or why you behaved the way you did and therefore may suspect cheating.
You'll need to divide game time between the various characters.
Both characters may be required to attend the same session at the same time.
A situation may arise where both characters may need to deal with each other.

In the end, my recommendations would be that very political LARP games limit characters to one per player as a player's perspective will colour the character's perspective. Since characters also do the same to players, there is a good chance that all of the characters will come to a similar opinion of another person's character. Sure, one might hate them, one might dislike them, and one might ignore them, but it's rare that one character will love them, another dislike them, and the third ignore them. In a plot-based LARP game, multiple characters per player can make it easier to provide hooks into the game as you can always request they play a character that would work well in the plot.

So there you have it. I hope that helps give you some perspective on this conundrum. Anyone else played in a LARP where there were multiple characters per player? Did you love it? Loathe it? How'd that work out for you?

Shadows Campaign, Part 2

If you want to see Part 1 of this article detailing the background to the Shadows Campaign, you can find it over here.

At about this point, Alicia Brown started speaking of torpor because her BP was so high (6) and started faking that her BP would soon be 7 by eyeing the kindred slightly as food. In order to keep peace, and because Dimloch was a blunt sledge hammer (one of the PCs) and incapable of being prince, she gave the praxis to Vivian Rogers (he was a PC), and then pretended to go into torpor.

Vivian Rogers spent three months in power before his treatment of his Brujah bikie Vinnie (who was more of a brutish Gangrel bikie than a Brujah one as he'd left America due to the psychotic nature of his old group); caused Vinnie to betray him to Dimloch and simply not attend the court gathering when Dimloch started making threats against the upstart Vivian. Dimloch staked Vivian against a wall, then decapitated him, and took praxis. Oh, and during this time, Seamus (PC) shot Dr. Taylor to death in the spirit world after his cult accidentally created a wound in the basement of the Women's & Children's Hospital so powerful that it even developed a verge. It wasn't a sanctioned death but the rest of the Ordo Dracul didn't care as they were simply happy to have the madman gone (besides, Seamus was a popular kogaian for a Vedma).

Prince Dimloch took most of his advice from the satistic sociopath, the Wyrm, who was an Ordo Dracul Nosferatu, and the Wyrm's childe, the Doctor (all PCs). The Wyrm and the Doctor were generally quiet but completely lacked even the semblance of humanity in what was otherwise a relatively high-humanity court that had figured out that the city was slowly decaying on the inside and that terrible things would happen if they pushed it over the edge.

The Ordo Dracul tried to contact Alicia Brown and even Vinnie Celino (then Sheriff) started searching to re-awaken her as the Carthians could deal with the generally decent Alicia Brown far better than the tyrannical Dimloch. Vinnie did destroy many of Alicia's artworks in her home to prove the point but did get her out of the thick stone slab that she had Earth Melded into during her 'torpor' but otherwise lurked in when she wanted to have a good think and to reduce her chances of being spotted. Being a Toreador, she was upset at the destruction of her artwork but managed to bite back a frenzy and see the compliment in Vinnie's attempts to bring her back. He was a rough-and-ready Carthian Gangrel biker, after all.

Torelli (Invictus Ventrue elder) had arrived in the city but had nowhere near as much influence on Dimloch and understood that you should let Ancients be Ancients. Far be it for him to tell an Ancient what to do. Unfortunately, his inability to salve the Ordo Dracul's fears that Dimloch wanted to kill them all (at the time, unfounded) and Duchess Alicia Brown's inability to do the same and unwillingness to get involved, provoked the Ordo Dracul into action.

The Wyrm died during a really complicated situation involving Brood (he became one over the course of the game), Dr. Taylor (a ghost-demon who requested a host and whom the Wyrm put in Seamus), and the PC Circle of the Crone Taifa Hassan (PC who had been kidnapped by Taylor-Seamus for experimentation but who somehow succeeded at about a dozen rolls during the day and Earth Melded outside). Basically, he got executed by an exorcised Seamus and a few others for his sins but they didn't do it with the prince's permission, which angered the prince, of course, and caused much of the Ordo Dracul paranoia. In truth, if he wanted to kill them, he just would've tried to do so. He wasn't subtle.

Seamus O'Baoill, Peter Walsh (an NPC with about three posts worth of story behind him), and Persephone Trent (Mekhet OD PC) all followed Gary Dodd (Nosferatu OD PC) into Nosferatu catacombs whose defences had started sagging since the destruction of Sikes (Nosferatu OD PC given up and turned Brood NPC) and the Wyrm. No one had bought up the lost merits and thus their main defences were the labrynthine passageways that Gary Dodd could navigate with ease.

They staked Dimloch and the Doctor and wanted to kill them but Walsh intervened on behalf of Dimloch as he is an impressive Ancient who would be a fantastic contribution to any formal and traditional kindred court. He offered to transport him to England or France, but as Walsh has a tendency to do, he ended up just putting him in a lock box and forgetting about it so he's in the city even in the future game.

The Ordo Dracul then deliberated and decided that as none of them wanted the position (and most of the options they put forward were NPCs), the position would go to Vinnie Celino. A lot of people had issues with Vinnie and thus there was a lot of chafing in the court but the game ended because player attrition meant there wasn't enough players to sustain a political-based LARP but few of the characters actually had any motivation to work together on a plot-based tabletop game.

So, in the future, Torelli takes praxis from Vinnie through making deals that causes a giant shudder in the web of Adelaide and causes all hell to break loose where monsters can slip through the cracks from the Other World in places of shadow and darkness; where certain segments of the city erode a vampire's sense of self and turn them into those nasty automata; and where outside of those areas vampire's feel more alive. Rather than the mere echoes of emotion, they feel real emotion ... albeit more faintly than humans do.

It was a cool premise so, since my fiance played THREE of those LARP characters I decided I could just run it as a personal game for him. It promises a variety of different campaign styles and he loves having the option of playing many characters so it should work out. Every so often, I can also invite another player over to reprise their previous character's role as well.

Shadows Campaign, Part 1

So maybe I run too many games? I'm figuring maybe but I guess this is what you do when your fiance is also a gamer. I mean, we live together. It's our main shared hobby. What else are we going to do with our days? Go outside? Okay then. But what to do outside? Game and talk? Yep, that sounds like us. There's plenty of conversational segments of game that don't require a dice and if you do need one, you can always do it World of Darkness LARP style and roll a single dice in a spice jar and then simply add your stats on top of that.

Basically, what inspired this one is the fact that after the last Demon campaign I realised that I really liked and missed all of the characters from the last Troupe Vampire campaign I ran. For awhile, I considered running it again but this time set 15 years in the future at around the point when the Invictus Ventrue Phillip Torelli did a deal that sprang many leaks in the main Adelaide plot.

Just so you know, the main Adelaide plot involved Prince Alicia Brown, a Daeva who had a life boon over a BP 8 Invictus Nosferatu who was also blood bonded to her (fed from her). She had the life boon because she rescued him during the Great Fire of 1666 when he was in torpor. Everyone was amazed by her abilities to restrain her frenzy - they never suspected that she was a hidden Ordo Dracul with Coil of Beasts rather than the Invictus neonate she pretended to be. Later, they moved to Adelaide early in its development so she could start on her Great Work - a belief that sacred geometry and clever architectural principles could alter ley lines in such a way as to help temper the Beast and allow for a more enlightened society within which a kindred could better attempt to ascend.

When two of the Ordo Dracul moved into the city a couple decades later, she doubted him and didn't reveal herself to him. This being Seamus O'Baoill (one of my fiance's characters) and a Sworn of the Dying Light known as Mrs. Victoria Young. By the time Alicia Brown felt she could trust Seamus (though never Victoria and the Dying Light would be responsible for assenting to her duplicity), another kindred entered town who was older than Alicia Brown by a 100 years (he managed to prove it, though whether it were true....) and took over the city. Where Prince Alicia Brown had been the iron fist in the velvet glove, Maxwell was the iron fist holding the barbed chains and he ruled the city with peculiar intensity and dogged tyrannical views supported by the three Lancea Sanctum who had followed him here.

Victoria was a ventrue OD of the cruelly experimentive variety and she Embraced Dr. Jonathon Taylor, a brilliant physician and medical researcher who worked within ethical boundaries that weren't even prescribed yet. Victoria was annoyed that Taylor allowed his inhibitions to road block him and tried to show him the error of his ways but to no avail.

Taylor started on his Great Work on the sly with the assistance of several Mages who had identified the city's strange properties (a matter that none of the three Ordo Dracul had recognised as none of them specialised in ley lines or architectural principles). Their experimentation culminated in a ritual designed to help Taylor ascend to a new state, or perhaps become human, or perhaps simply regain a human-like soul. A literal angel (virtue spirit) was summoned alongside a particularly high Morality ghost called Cassandra (who had been a nurse in the Women's & Children's Hospital that Victoria had Dominated Taylor into slaying as part of his punishment).

This ritual occured on O'Halloran Hill in 1922 but it backfired when it was interrupted by Prince Maxwell, his Longinian Sheriff, and two other members of the Lancea Sanctum. The paradox erupted from the uncontained ritual and the Abyss spilt into the cracks, most of it nesting under the Adelaide Hills where an ancient Place That Wasn't that had once been in Germany started sliding into being. The Mages died in the process, Dr. Taylor lost his mind and grew twisted (think Mad Experimenter), and Prince Maxwell and the Lancea Sanctum were emptied of any trace of themselves and became like tyrannical automata, unaffected by either Beast or the vestiges of Humanity for they had neither. Prince Maxwell and the Longinians began blood hunting random neonates and even spontaneously created neonates whose sires were 'unknown' simply so they could hunt. The effects on the city led to human serial killers began springing up with increasing regularity over the next century from about 1922 - date of the ritual - onwards

No one realised what had happened to them or the city just yet but within a decade the tyranny grew to a boiling point and when Prince Maxwell leveled a blood hunt against Alicia Brown's Carthian sibling, Vivian Rogers (at the time, they both were Harpies), people were thoroughly outraged but unable to act against a Prince who had a BP 8 Ancient under his thumb (via Alicia Brown). Duchess Alicia Brown surprised them all by calling down a blood hunt on Maxwell and his lackeys and Dimloch staked Maxwell on his spear and then, without removing the corpse, then staked Maxwell's sheriff.

From then onward, Duchess Alicia Brown ruled, though as her Great Work came to completion she began to itch at the demands of her praxis. While it was near agony to her after so many years of stasis, she began developing a new identity in the 1990s as part of her personal studies to learn a new coil and ended up creating a somewhat daggy punk chick alter ego as after so many years of being seen as the regal Daeva, folk would simply assume it was a human who looked similar to her so long as she kept her Blush of Life, Obfuscated her Beast (she never did that otherwise), and had her hair and make up done properly. People might have recognised her easily on a photograph but in person where she even walked differently, she seemed like an intimidatingly cold thuggish redneck.

During those years, she even made inroads with a pack of werewolves in northern Adelaide who were mostly police officers (Hunter in Darkness and Iron Masters mix) though the pack kept her at arm's reach though were willing to conversed with her. She never revealed to them just how old she was and passed herself off as a neonate in hiding. She smoothed things over to them but never spoke of debt so they tolerated her.

You can find out more of what happened in Part 2 because this article turned out to be so damned long.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dystopic Basic Character Concepts

So far we have a number of different character concepts that are nicely distinct from each other with their own niches.

We have a Luciferan Portals Fiend in the body of a SWAT team guy from a near-future-tech tyrannical police state London. It's a benevolent tyranny though the citizens don't realise this. They'll shoot your six-year-old dead if the paperwork comes in ... they won't tell you that she's been Claimed by a spirit and is dead anyway. They'll deny you access to your own bathroom and have a guy standing out the front ... they won't tell you they've sent in a werewolf to drain the locus. It's a werewolf-human integrated society that's coping quite well with the spirit world, all told, and is thus considered to be an Integrated Society by the para-faction that leads them.

We have a Reconciler Ghosts Slayer in the body of an Assassin's Creed-style assassin who kills for ideals rather than money and who is in a tyrannical communist sector in Russia that has gathered up power to the very few and cripples or kills those who defy the Authority. The true nature of the Authority is as yet unknown. It is rated as a dystopia as it's more malevolent than anything else.

We have a Cryptic Scourge in the body of a hacker - infiltrator who's good at getting in and out of places with information who's come from Cyberpunk Tokyo. She works for a relatively 'nice' mega-corporation not too dissimilar in style with Sarif Industries. Sure, they're willing to do some really bad things but they don't do it routinely and are generally trying to make the world a better place. Cyberpunk is always somewhat dystopic but cyberpunk Tokyo isn't an evil society, just a callous one, so it just rates as a Marginal Dystopian Society.

We also have a is a smuggler / trader-type who runs equipment and contraband between west and east coast America. America is one of the Nuke Nations (China, U.S.A. and India all nuked each other when the masquerade crumpled) and its west coast is irradiated, nearly overrun with zombies and mutants, though it still has a number of communities and farms who have fortified and survived (often with cancer). The east coast was spared the nuclear bombardment and erected massive walls to keep the zombies and the refugees out (as they have limited resources of their own). The west coast is a bit like Fall Out and has a range of societies (supernaturals aren't open members), integrated societies (supernaturals are openly members, at least to the upper echelons, or sometimes to all), and dystopias (an unnecessarily cruel or callous society). The east coast is fairly Cyberpunk and runs a lottery whereby those west of the wall who participate in the economy enter the draw to win their family a life in the east coast cities.

We also have a Patterns Fiend (likely Cryptic) investigative occultist, likely Defiler or Devourer, in the body of a private investigator in a Noir-meets-Cyberpunk mix up in east coast America, Miami. It's less of a dark Noir and more of an L.A. Noir. His city rates as a dystopia as it really is all about the powerful feeding off the weak (this isn't true of all east coast cities as they can differ quite a bit).

While the players picked their hosts, in-game the super-faction selected them and thus I gave them each 85xp on the sheet (they get 10xp you can add to either fallen or host side of it) so they felt free to pick someone suitably skilled. They all needed Stealth and Athletics as it seems to be a focus of this team and stealthers fail if you're not all at least capable of it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dystopic Campaign Rules Tinkering

In my new Dystopic World of Darkness campaign, I've been making some adjustments to the rules to better reflect the type of game I want to run. I figured I'll include them here in case you want to use these house rules:

Teamwork Experience. Basically, if the characters demonstrate good tactics or good teamwork, they gain bonus experience points that will be kept in the Teamwork pool. The purpose for this is to purchase tactics (from Hunter: the Vigil), upgrade equipment or purchase better baseline equipment, site merits, and other group merits. It's basically like Arcane Experience but for encouraging teamwork.

Clue Tokens will be making a return.

Resources will be a Requisitions style merit to show how good they are at requisitioning certain equipment, fancy clothes, and nice cars for their various assignments.

Old World of Darkness style flaws are making a return but also cover such things as retainers, allies, and contacts under a general name of Plot Points. How and why? Well, since this is a globe-trotting campaign, there's only so much focus the game will have and this is my way of discouraging the players from laying their mark on a number of NPCs and claiming them. The other thing is that, in truth, while those useful and friendly NPCs that are claimed as Flaw Points are helpful, they've also got a mind of their own and can get themselves into trouble. The care and attention they require also simply mean that some energy and effort have to be expended on them.

This doesn't mean I'll make them all pains in the neck, just that they're, well, plot even when they're happy and friendly. These Plot Points can be bought at the start of play and earn the player additional merit points to spend on various merits. If resolved (or the NPC dies) they can then get themselvs a new one.

I'm inventing a Hacking Style for our resident Hacker. I'll post the rules once its done.

I'm editing Demonic Lores and have even introduced a new one to bring it more in line with the somewhat superhero vibe of the game (the Dystopic Campaign will have a variety of different styles within it depending on sector).

Plus, I'm going with the idea put forward in the Assassin's Creed Translation about stealth kills. Basically, you don't have to erode a person's health to 0 to kill them nor max out a few fighting styles. You just have to succeed on three consecutive rolls in such a way that that the enemy is unaware and you strike them in just the right place.

So those are all the main tinker points thus far. I'll let you know if more come up.