Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Just Dumb Things (Vampire: The Masquerade Edition)

So i haven’t done one of these in a while, and the recent appearance of the Vampire: The Masquerade 20 year edition showing up on Humble Bundle brought up a wonderful horror story of how things got screwed up playing Vampire, that one time in college.  Now this story does end with a werewolf getting pinwheel kicked into a silver chandelier by a demonically possessed Pope, but that’s much closer to the end of the story than the beginning, and we generally try to start at the beginning of the story.  There are two interesting Gaming Issues we’re going to tackle with this one, the misunderstood expectations, and the dreaded  GMPC.  So Buckle up and hear the story of who we got trapped in Oklahoma City, as an unsuspecting group of neonate vampires.  

So this is a first experience with a new GM and one of the first games i played with some new kids who ended up in our gaming circle.  We’re mostly new to the game (but i have tinkered with the game since high school), so we end up making three Toreadors (artistic vampires who are so moved by art it can temporarily render them insensate) a Ventrue (If Big Business was a vampire, it’d be a Ventrue), a couple of Nosferatu (Ugly Vamps is Ugly), and a Tremere (because who doesn’t love sneaky conniving Blood Wizards?).  Now you might be asking yourself, why in god’s name would this pack of children be working together?

Well, within our internal logic, the three toreadors all have music skills and we decided that we’d be a trendy band of artistes, and we roped the Ventrue into being our business manager.  One of the Nosferatu volunteered to be a Roadie, and the other one had computer skills so we hired him to be our Social Media/computer guy who does things guy.  That left Mr. Blood Wizard out in the cold, and he decided that his clan would send a “watchdog” along to keep an eye on everything.  (We started calling him the fun police around 4 minutes into the first session.).  Look at that level of player interactivity?  We had ideas and plans, and were sort of making our way through the world doing it our way.  None of us went combat heavy because well, look at us, we’re not the kind of people you want to have in a fight, despite the presence of spooky vampire powers and other associated nonsense.  Our GM sat there and let us make these characters and didn’t say anything about things we might be lacking, or things that may be more useful.  

So we start our merry adventure as basically Abney Park with our first gig in OKC, and things are going well.  We play our little songs, make our money, pick up enough blood to get by and get ready to go on our next gig.  As we make our way out to our waiting cars and associated vehicles, we get jumped by a full blown, OMG Crinos form Werewolf in kill vampire mode.  (That’s really bad, werewolves are built to take hits and beat the snot out of anything that’s not a werewolf, and we’re not bad enough ninjas to stop him.).  

Then the Game Master Player Character shows up and saves us from the Werewolf.  A creepy dude named Richard shows up, punches the werewolf in the snout a few times and it decides to leave.  Then he basically tells us the entire city is cursed and we’re not going to be able to leave without finding the heart of the problem and destroying it.  (Did i mention we’re more Josie and the Pussycats than G.I. Joe?) Then he starts following us around, trying to figure out how we’re going to solve this problem.  Worse than a GMPC, this one’s not actually giving us any help beyond pointing out where the Werewolves are.  Evidently, the presence of the Werewolves is a new thing, and our GMPC thinks that this is obviously the source of the curse.  We attempt to deal with the little combat situations we have and we get our asses handed to us by local cops and street level thugs.  

We’ve hit a drastic circumstance, and this requires some clever thinking (and in a couple of cases, shattering the Masquerade, the rules that bind vampire society).  We start to slowly take control of the city’s swat team, and we end up ghouling and blood bonding the entire police force over the period of a month.  We use that resource to acquire enough weapons and equipment (and disposable bodies) to theoretically throw at the Werewolves to maybe accomplish this task.  Our GMPC companion thinks we’re idiots for doing it this way, but we manage to finally destroy an incredibly power Werewolf tribal sanctuary, kill nearly 4 dozen werewolves, and escape the fucking cursed city of Oklahoma City.  Our Ventrue died when the Werewolf Alpha decided he was a chew toy and the rest of our party was out of position to help him.  Alas, in escaping the cursed city, we didn’t manage to escape the GMPC, who kept following us around and generally staying actively in the middle of the things we were trying to do.  

So, how could this have played out differently?

Well, had our GM told us what the tone and expected direction of the campaign was going to be, i would have encouraged my fellow players to build completely different things than we ended up making.  There are ways to build groups to handle heavy combat situations like this, but boy howdy blind siding us like that turned out to be a real shitty way to introduce players to a wonderfully complex game of social interactions and power structures.  I have played other iterations of this game that worked much more interestingly, and there are other World of Darkness games that are amazingly fun.  Hell, Vampire: The Masquerade can be amazingly fun with the right social setting and expectations from both players and GM.  

The GMPC would have been way less irritating if he’d shown up, handed us the story, and fucked off back to wherever he was originally from.  As it was, we couldn’t get rid of him and this actually led to an argument at the table between players and GM about the feasibility of sliding a Harley Davidson Motorcycle under the cars of a moving train. (Spoiler alert, the GM said he could totes do it).  Because, you know, we were doing stuff that he wanted to know about and things.  

Once we’d decided on a course of action and the best possibly way for our characters to decide how to solve this problem, the game took an interesting turn of escalating violence that included dunking a werewolf in White Phosphor and lighting the thing on fire (Soak that you furball).  The only solution that we ended up having regularly available was violence, and that colored how we reacted to the world around us once we escaped Oklahoma City.  We literally became the monsters we were supposed to avoid.  Life got interesting us we drifted from city to city, smashing and taking things that got in the way.  The highlight i think was the timid Toreador keyboard player who ended up shooting an Elder in the face with a rocket launcher.  That’s when we as a group of players decided we’d gotten away from the point of the game and restarted with a slightly different group and some new ground rules (and a new GM).  The new GM basically gave everybody a rough idea of what to expect from the campaign, let them make new characters if they wanted, and started following a mostly coherent plot to investigate some strange goings on Ohio.  The players had a much better time.  Someday i’ll tell you the bizarro land expedition that gets us to the Demonically possessed Pope, but that’s not today’s story.  

Game On, Game Fans

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