Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Vampire Noir Adventure Creation: Themes

I’m currently preparing the adventure to sit between the two halves of the Tatters of the King campaign and I thought I’d turn my eye onto something more typically vampire-oriented as an adventure.  In fact, I thought I'd try my hand at something more typically Daeva.  Since James Tyler is a tough and cynical anti-hero, I thought a Noir-themed adventure could work as we've had several regular hunter stories beforehand and I wanted to try something different.  The World of Darkness creators suggest getting all of your themes in a line before working on the adventure itself so I thought I’d do just that with no less than eight Noir-inspired themes to get my inspired.  Take a look.

Private Investigators & Femme Fatales.
While classical Noir requires neither a private investigator nor a femme fatale, the plot has led James Tyler to more of a desk job (private investigation as cover) while Daeva politics simply scream for femme (or male) fatales.  As a twist against the genre, however, I think I will use an ingĂ©nue in wolf’s clothing rather than a true femme fatale.  There is nothing more unexpected than a genuine victim amongst the kindred and the freshly dead can seem quite human even to themselves.  I’ll add a Gothic vibe and another level of suspicion by making her a member of the Circle of the Crone.  She’ll hold the Maiden role but that isn’t what James will expect nor is it something she’d ever think to tell him.

Noir is all about temptation and not just of a sexual variety.  It could be the temptation of alcohol to fog the pain or fuel excitement.  Or perhaps the temptation of a bribe that would make everything better in the short-term.  Or even the chance to take the easy road: to ignore cruelty, submit to another’s dominance, or surrender something which is held dear, simply to avoid violence or further recriminations.  Even something relatively innocent like a teenager being tempted to copy what their parents do could work.  I won’t just be holding out temptations to the protagonist, however, as I think it’d be more fun and in keeping with the Daeva tradition to sometimes make him the inadvertent source of temptation. 

I’ll cover temptation of parental mimicry by having Charlotte, his perfectly human foster daughter, try to do a few things that he does which will get her into trouble.  I’ll start small with her trying a few shots of whiskey and perhaps have her tail someone she should be avoiding.  I’ll have a woman he accidentally fed upon twice within a few weeks try to give her life meaning by slowly working to become his blood doll.  He’ll meet a one-time idealist police officer drowning his sorrow in alcohol after one too many cases where the witnesses he wrangled onto the stand suffered the recriminations they feared despite his hollow promises.  I’ll encourage him to bribe and extort his way through people to achieve his goals.  I’ll make it easy to do so.  Daeva are quite good at forcing other people to succumb.  In the end, I’ll offer him a nonviolent resolution so long as he surrenders part of his conscience.  I don't think he'll take that offer, knowing how stubborn he is, but I'll throw the temptation out there anyway.

All Is Not What It Seems.
This is a pretty favoured theme for me, much to my player’s chagrin.  It can be cruel to truly use this theme to its full potential in a party situation as at least one of them are bound to fall for it and sometimes the other protagonists may be dragged painfully after them.  Some like the clashes and in-game arguments that stem from this but most of my players prefer to minimise it.  In a solo game, however, this should work out well.  I’ll aim to provide three layers to each principal character and to the overall minor ‘conspiracy’ that the adventure involves unravelling.  Each layer will create its own perception but only by the third layer will he have the truth.  It’ll be interesting to see how many layers he unpeels with each character.

Urban Decay.
This is more about description than anything else.  Considering that the game is set ten years after the Blitz hit London, there’s bound to be the odd bit of bomb damage I can throw into the descriptions.  Cracked and peeling paint, faded facades, boarded over windows, and fire escapes hanging slightly askew on rusted bolts can all provide some additional colour and help provide the next element....

Heavy Contrasts.
Noir movies often work with a heavy contrast between light and shadow as well as the haves and the have-nots.  I can do the same by comparing the urban decay prevalent in the poorer areas with the luxury surroundings of the rich.  I can also create quick clashes between expensive nightclubs with trash strewn alleyways beside them that reek of piss and are littered with cigarette butts.

Erotic Ambivalence & Cruelty.
I think I’ll focus on Clan Daeva for this one as it slips in so neatly into Noir and especially this particular theme.  Simply being a kindred, or around kindred, raises the specter of this particular issue.  Can a ghoul ever consent to sex with his master if he is bound by blood to love her?  Are those human servants used as slightly eroticised furniture happy with their arrangement even if they are well-paid?  What about the wannabe blood doll who throws herself at James Tyler?  Is it crueller to relent to her desires and draw on her blood or turn her aside and reinforce her fears?  And can two Daeva ever be together without being cruel towards each other?

Extreme Psychologies.
While not everyone will have an extreme psychology, I will include a few to add to that heavy contrast and that strange ethereal sense that everything isn’t okay.  I already have a few in mind though I’m not sure where I’ll slot them.  A smiling man who is prone to cruelty.  A beautiful woman reclining who is prone to sudden bouts of anger.  A broken and cynical police officer who doesn’t know what to do in a world he barely believes in.  A pretty woman, desperate to be loved, whose halting voice sings beautiful tunes while her greedy manager takes the larger cut.

Beauty can hide a cruel heart. 
This is an easy one to do but I don’t think I’ll be focusing as much on individual attractiveness so much as the notion of the “beautiful people”.  People who are popular, well-dressed, upper middle-class with the right amount of make-up ... the perfect people for Daeva to stalk amongst and also, unfortunately, to sire.

So that's it so far for my Noiring up of my vampire game.  You can read more about the campaign and other articles on the Vampire, Changeling, and Tatters of the King side of it over here.

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