Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour—but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands—and who knows what to do with it?”
• What do I need to do to create a PC for this game?
• What times do we play and what medium do we play over?
• What is the party dynamic like?
• What is the game itself like? Sandboxy, linear?
• What kind of PC can I create? Ie, what clans and covenants are allowed?
• Can I play something besides a neonate vampire?
• What’s your philosophy on PC deaths?
• Can I invite a friend?
• Your game uses Requiem rules with Masquerade’s setting, right? Is the setting any different?
• I don’t have Requiem’s 2e rulebook, do I need to buy it?
• I haven’t played Requiem, what parts of the rulebook do I need to read?
• I haven’t played Requiem or Masquerade, what do I need to read?
• I’m new to Masquerade and want to learn more about the setting, can/should I read anything else?
• Any other tips or advice for doing well in your game?
• Earning More XP
• General Netiquette
• Hangouts-Based Combat
• Retiring and Replacing Old PCs
• Roll Modifiers
• Secondary PCs
• Shared Beliefs of Players and PCs vs. NPC Mind-Reading
• Spending Experiences
• XP and New, Dead, Retired, and Secondary PCs
• Willpower Tracking
A Preliminary Note
The game’s players have put together their own aptly-named The Players’ New Player’s Guide. It’s worth a read for anyone who wants a fellow player’s opinion on what the game is like.
First, familiarize yourself with the game’s setting. Go to the wiki’s Main Page and do some reading. Of the various articles there, the following are most important to new characters:
Theme and Mood tells you about the setting’s atmosphere.
Geography tells you about the environs in which your PC lives, works, and calls home.
Mortals is the heart of the game: its characters. Read over the NPCs’ mini-biographies and determine who you want as parents, spouses, children, friends, rivals, whatever.
There are a lot more articles directed at the setting’s vampires. Reading them is optional, as your character won’t (yet) know anything that’s on there. New PCs go through a “boot camp” period as mortals and receive the Embrace as an in-game event, after which they’ll plunge headfirst into the intrigues of the All-Night Society.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can also read the game’s session logs. They are long. I don’t expect new players to read them in their entirety. Nevertheless, if you want a good hard look at what the game’s actual sessions are like, there they are. (Edit: “They are long” is no longer accurate. Most have been removed pending their reorganization.)
Second, put together a character sheet for your PC. Follow the instructions on the Character Creation Quickstart. You can do that by yourself or together with me; I’m happy to walk players through the PC creation process, whether they are newbies unfamiliar with the rules or old hands who like getting feedback on their choices from the GM.
We used played over mIRC for 5-hour weekly sessions. We now play over Google Hangouts at… well, I’ll explain how it works.
Every PC has their own Hangout over Google. I post messages in each. The players reply whenever is convenient. I reply whenever is convenient. When a player and I happen to be online at the same time, this blossoms into a spontaneous mini-session that can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours (my longest spontaneous session with a player around seven). Otherwise, we play message tag back and forth throughout the week.
The group was initially apprehensive about not playing at fixed times, but it’s worked out surprisingly well. We no longer have to worry about scheduling 5-hour blocks out of our lives and play when they’re able, yet the steady stream of replies (and ability to follow ~4 other frequently updating chat rooms) keeps players hooked. The fact players are talking in a live chat room and frequently checking the “site” (due to the game being hosted over their email provider) seems to keep them more invested than play-by-post. When we aren’t gaming (and when we are), it’s pretty common for the group just to talk about random stuff in the OOC room, which seems to foster a greater sense of community than play-by-post does.
The one downside is that for players who don’t use gmail, their new account becomes another site to periodically check. For such players, I’m willing to host private IRC or Hangouts sessions at scheduled times. Fridays and Saturdays are the best days for me. Sundays are no-gos.
For starters, the PCs don’t belong to a cohesive party. They operate independently of one another and spend the majority of their time pursuing their own goals and interests. Sometimes they cross paths with other PCs, occasionally as allies, other times as enemies. PvP is allowed but not compelled. It’s up to each PC how they interact with their fellows, though I’ll often introduce dramatic complications to keep them from getting too luvvy-duvvy with one another.
I’ve chosen this dynamic due to the greater range of storytelling possibilities it allows for. New Orleans has tons of characters to meet and tons of locales to explore. If the PCs are all tied to one anothers’ apron strings, I can only show those off one at a time. If the PCs are independent operators, I can show off 4+ at once. One of text-based gaming’s benefits over voice-based gaming is that I can run multiple chat rooms simultaneously for all the PCs. It’s effectively impossible for one player to monopolize the GM’s time; all PCs get equal spotlight.
Beyond my preference for organic, player-driven role-playing, I have another reason for this approach: players drop out. I prefer to GM for tightly-knit, long-term gaming groups, but player attrition is an all-too frequent, if still regrettable, part of online games. Player attrition and absences are easier to accommodate when the PCs’ plot threads aren’t closely tied together, as I can let one player go without greatly impacting things for the others.
Pretty sandboxy. What direction the game goes in is totally up to players. They choose what goals their PCs are interested in pursuing, and I have no overarching plot or storyline in mind. What I do have is a large cast of NPCs with extensively fleshed out goals and motivations. So when PCs shake up the status quo (as they inevitably will), other characters will probably take notice and see how they can twist events to further their own agendas, and at that point the stories practically write themselves. I also have a couple events planned to further shake up the status quo later in the game, but again, no story I’ve written out in advance. I believe strongly in confronting PCs with situations, rather than prefabricated storylines, and letting them decide how they react to those.
So how does this work outside the game? During the PC creation process, we’ll come up with a list of goals for your PC together. The exact nature of that list is further detailed elsewhere, but the tldr is that you tell me what you’re interested in doing with your PC, and I have that stuff come up during sessions. For example, if you look at the game’s logs, Becky Lynne only approached George with a job offer from Matheson because George’s player listed “discover the reason for Matheson’s exile” as one of his goals. Likewise, Julien’s player wanted to score an occult tome, and Clea’s player wanted to have interactions with an occult bookstore owner, so that’s what their first joint session focused on. (Amazing how well those goals intersected, right? Both PCs were resultantly paired off into a crossover session.)
Some random tips:
• Your goals are your primary vehicle for exploring the game’s setting. Pick ones that are fun.
• PC goals aren’t the same as player goals. “Get in trouble with the law,” for example, isn’t likely to be held by a PC, but may well be desired by their player. The latter is more important.
• You get out what you put in. The more extensive your goals list is, the more ways I’ll have to engage your PC with the gameworld.
That “choice” is actually made in-game rather than during the character creation process. PCs do not begin the game as vampires, but as mortals, and receive the Embrace after the aforementioned “boot camp” period. V20 describes it as follows:
Boot camp is a technique where the players play mortal characters for an extended period of time. It folds the characters’ human backgrounds into the beginning of the chronicle more centrally than preludes often can. It can be viewed as an extended prelude because all the characters start play as mortals, and they very possibly play through a whole story arc as mortals.
This technique has value because it adds substance to characters by forcing players to start their characters as people and exploring all the changes vampirism imposes on them. It’s a more thorough way for your troupe to get a handle on their characters than by just starting them with a short prelude, because they must evolve as people and then evolve as vampires. It helps the players explain why their vampires are the way they are, without just assuming it. It isn’t for everybody—many troupe members want to jump directly into the game as vampires—but with the right group, it adds layers of motivation to their characters by contrasting all things human with the Curse of Caine.
This is also a viable technique for introducing special Storyteller characters from the characters’ backgrounds and letting those relationships evolve organically. It can show characters the faces of their sires prior to the Embrace and makes the hunt of predator and childe-to-be much more personal. Boot camp also spawns ideas for individual plot hooks for every character in the coterie: It can sow the seeds of characters’ ambitions and carry rivalries from life to unlife. The process is much the same for the characters’ allies. It lets the characters touch their human families and makes the loss of those families much more poignant, giving them a more immediate sense of how unattainable and how lost those former lives have become. Boot camp stories drive home the difference between Humanity and the Beast by letting characters experience the friends, family, love interests, etc. whom they might later be tempted to Embrace instead of abandoning.
As to the question of available clans and covenants, players are encouraged to convey their preferences in those areas to me. Note, however, that this is just a preference rather than a pronouncement. Ultimately, the clan and covenant of any PC will be determined by in-game, rather than OOC, player choices—and the reactions of potential sires.
For example, you might decide to play the beautiful if conceited daughter of an old money Garden District family. Such a character may well attract a Toreador sire, but she could also just as likely attract a Nosferatu one. Naturally, I will seek to honor player goals—but I will ultimately view them as guidelines rather than metagame straightjackets. This is not to say that I will be capricious or arbitrary; instead, I will encourage and listen to OOC-shared preferences but pay the most attention to how PCs act and react to the setting and characters around them.
That said, there is one caveat: you may assume all the clans and covenants which have their own wiki pages (and a few that don’t) are potential options—with the exception of the Sabbat, who are off-limits as PCs.
Follow-up question: How much exposure can my PC have to the Kindred/supernatural world? I had a player considering a hunter character concept ask me this. New PCs begin the game ignorant of the supernatural and unaware of the World of Darkness’ sinister truths (so hunters, as a starting PC option, are out, though making contact with hunters could be an Aspiration to achieve in-game). If they have Supernatural Merits, they probably think of them as one-of-a-kind gifts. In short, they have yet to (knowingly) cross paths with fully supernatural beings like vampires.
That blissful ignorance, of course, will be forever shattered in due time.
Follow-up question: How long will my PC stay a mortal? Long enough for us to get a sense of who they were before the Embrace, so probably a couple real-life weeks/several game sessions’ worth of playing.
Follow-up question: I really don’t think I’d enjoy playing a mortal. Can I play a vampire from the start? First, read the session logs for this mortal PC. Here’s Part 1, and here’s Part 2. If you find those boring, talk to me and we’ll see what we can work out.
Yes. Some of the alternatives include:
• Ordinary Mortals: I know what it’s like. I’ve played a mortal PC in a game where I thought she was going to become a vampire, but I ended up liking the character’s mortal story arc enough that I decided I’d like to spend the rest of the game on that. If players wish for their characters to remain mortals, the setting has room for it, and I will attempt to accommodate such.
I cannot, however, promise that such a character won’t be ghouled or Embraced, as that will be determined by their actions. Vampires are the central focus of B&B’s setting and are highly likely to cross paths with mortal PCs—and may find it necessary or desirable to ghoul/Embrace those mortals who draw their attention. The potential for horrifying things to happen to one’s PC is just part and parcel of horror games. Players remain free, however, to create another mortal character if they are uninterested in playing their initial PC post-Embrace/ghouling.
• Ghouls: B&B has seen two ghoul PCs. While my baseline assumption is that all new PCs will be Embraced, the game can easily accommodate them being ghouled instead. Depending on a PC’s actions, potential sires might find it preferable to ghoul them first, or even to keep them as ghouls indefinitely. New Orleans’ ghouls have a complex society of their own and outnumber the city’s vampires by (at least) three to one, so there is a great deal of storytelling potential there.
Players who wish to portray ghouls rather than Kindred PCs will still begin the game with ordinary mortals, and be ghouled by their domitors as in-game event.
• Ancilla Kindred & Older Ghouls: B&B used to have PCs begin play as century-old vampires (or ghouls). After GMing for two neonate-age PCs, I’ve mandated younger characters as the new standard, as I’ve found they lead to richer mortal interactions and are easier for players to realistically portray.
I am still willing to extend ancilla Kindred/century-old-ghoul PC slots on a case-by-case basis, typically after the player has done a “dry run” as a neonate and gotten a chance to experience firsthand what the setting and my particular take on Vampire is like—experience that any century-old bloodsucker would amply possess.
Follow-up question: Vampires aren’t my thing, can I play another supernatural creature?
I’ve been asked this question several times. This is a Vampire game and I want to keep its focus on vampires (and the mortals who interact with them), so mages/werewolves/changelings/etc. aren’t available as PC options. The respective game lines for those creatures are awesome, they simply don’t explore the themes we’re focusing on in this game.
Follow-up question: I’d really, really like to play a supernatural creature besides a vampire, though. Can you make an exception?
I’ve had a few players who’ve read the FAQ still ask me this—I consider it a compliment that my Vampire game looks awesome enough to still attract players who are less enthusiastic Vampire fans. I will, however, still give the same answer in the FAQ to any player who asks me this question personally. If you really want to play a a mage, a werewolf, a changeling, a Promethean, a Beast, etc., I recommend seeking out another game. If you look around on the wiki, you’ll see that there’s a ton of content for vampires and pretty much nothing for the other supernatural races. As a player, I know I wouldn’t find it much fun to be the sole changeling in a game of vamps.
In brief, I don’t fudge rolls—either for or against PCs—and I don’t shield them from the consequences of their actions. No character in the game is too big to fall, and victory is meaningless without the possibility of defeat.
I do make efforts to ensure that players are aware of the same information their PCs would know. Sometimes that takes the form of Mental-based rolls, or even telling players outright in particularly obvious cases (ie, if you’re playing a character Politics or Socialize 5, you know the proper term of address for the Prince). Nevertheless, I simply relay facts and never tell players what they should or shouldn’t do. Not only does that rob them of agency, it’s boring for me as a GM. Watching players take the game in unexpected new directions is half the fun.
As of this writing, three PCs have died as a result of their in-game actions (vs. simply being killed off as a write-out after their players had to leave the game). In two cases, they resulted from bad decisions paired with bad dice luck. One might have been survivable by itself, but not together. The third case was a particularly bad decision paired with average dice luck.
Lessons that future PCs can take from some of those fatalities, incidentally? Showing up to Elysium hungry is bad form, and conducting diplomatic negotiations on behalf of your clan/covenant without informing your superiors, beyond simply ticking them off, can deprive you of their backup in case things go south.
This has come up several times. Gaming with your buddies is awesome, and I prefer it when players are friends outside the game. There are a couple things to go over first:
Depending on the game’s current state, there might not be room for more players. So as to avoid getting your friends’ hopes up, ask me whether there’s any open slots before you tell your buds about this awesome game you’ve found. If the answer is no, we won’t disappoint them.
I’ll also want to chat with your friend(s) myself and get a feel for what their playstyle is like before saying yes. I’ll bet 99% odds they’re awesome people. I’ve had one friend-of-a-player referral turn out to be a neo-Nazi, however (I’m not joking), so I make a habit of vetting all referrals just to be sure.
Not significantly. We still use Masquerade’s thirteen clans rather than Requiem’s five. The Camarilla is still at war with the Sabbat, the Antediluvians still play their Jyhad with younger Kindred as their puppets, Caine is still widely believed to be the progenitor of all vampires, Mithras was still the Prince of London until WWII, Patricia of Bollingbroke still shot Hardestadt with a pistol at the Convention of Thorns, etc. If you are a long-time Masquerade fan, everything you know still holds true.
The setting is metaplot-neutral. All of the developments that happened during Revised edition (Ravnos being killed off in the Week of Nightmares, the Assamite schism, Sabbat East Coast offensive, Cathayans invading California, etc.) haven’t happened. I greatly enjoyed the metaplot and might even run a game taking PCs through its events someday, it simply isn’t relevant to the story we’re telling here in New Orleans.
I do use most of the (comparatively few) metaplot developments in V20, such as the Anarchs making a comeback following the Great Recession and New York belonging to the Camarilla. In addition, I’ve pilfered a number of setting elements from Requiem. The covenants exist as sub-factions within the Camarilla (rather like the Tremere already do) just to name the most prominent one.
Nope. Once I’ve added you to the campaign over Obsidian Portal, you can download the rulebook for free from the player-only section of Player Resources.
As PCs start out as mortals, you don’t read to read any of the Vampire rulebook at this point. But if you feel like starting early…
Pages 163-170 cover the game’s dice rolling system and universal basics. (Already covered in the mortal-oriented Chronicles of Darkness Core Rulebook.)
Pages 79-83 cover how to create a PC.
Pages 84-109 cover the specific rules for playing vampire characters.
Pages 175-182 explain the combat system. (Already covered in the mortal-oriented Chronicles of Darkness Core Rulebook.)
If you can’t tell, intuitive layout isn’t this book’s strong spot.
Pages 31-44 tell you what the covenants are all about (flavor, no mechanics).
Everything else is either flavor (some of which contradicts the game’s setting; this is a Masquerade game with Requiem rules) or rules only circumstantially relevant to players. Disciplines are the most notable example of that latter category; obviously, you should read the rules for the ones you’ve picked.
Beyond the previously mentioned parts of Requiem’s rulebook, you should read pages 11-46 of Masquerade’s rulebook (which is available on the Player Resources page if you don’t have), as well as the writeups for the game’s seven Camarilla clans (Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, Ventrue). Everything you need to understand the basics of vampires in the Classic World of Darkness is outlined there.
I’ll also advise you not to read the parts of Requiem’s rulebook I haven’t specifically mentioned. Despite being superficially similar games (both are about playing vampires in a crapsack world), they are very different in tone, theme, and innumerable minor details. At the same time, they also share lots of similarities and reuse a number of concepts, down to the same names—which they then put their own distinct spins on. If you’re a virgin to Masquerade, you’ll likely end up pretty confused when our game seems to simultaneously use and contradict the setting information mentioned in Requiem.
If it helps, think of us as playing a 3.0 D&D setting (which has lots of 3.0 mechanics) using Pathfinder rules, and referencing the books of both.
Absolutely, on both counts. Masquerade is an incredibly rich game with a 24-year history and dozens of published books. I’ve read most of them, and savvy players will be able to observe numerous references and callbacks in our own game (many of the names listed in the genealogies of various NPCs, for example, are canon characters).
For a brand new player interested in learning more about Masquerade, I’d recommend Lore of the Clans, the V20 Companion, Rites of Blood, and Anarchs Unbound to start you off. If you’re a video gamer, Bloodlines offers a great look at the WoD’s concepts in action (as well as being very fun in its own right. One of its characters, in fact, showed up during a PC’s prelude). Free links to these books are available on the Player Resources page.
• Remember that Kindred society isn’t fair or nice in any way towards neonates. This has taken a number of players by surprise. I’m not going to spend too much time rambling about such, though, because it’s actually wholly in-character for newly-Embraced neonates to be outraged over how gerontocratic the Camarilla is. This article has a few further applicable words to say on the subject.
• Remember that vampirism is a curse. This has taken a few players by surprise too. Kindred who try to go on living like mortals, as if their condition hasn’t made anything different besides a diurnal sleep schedule, or who play do-gooder/Superman with their powers will find that such attempts end in tragedy. That isn’t to say it’s impossible for the Kindred to have meaningful mortal connections or even to be moral beings, but it does take a conscious and deliberate effort that involves acknowledging one’s undead state for what it is. Once again, I’m not going to spend too many words rambling about this, because it’s in-character for newly-Embraced neonates not to understand the nature of their curse and to learn its bitter lessons firsthand. This (other) article has a few applicable words to say on the subject too.
• Treat my NPCs as real people. Characters and their relationships are the heart of my games. By that same token, I play my NPCs as real people. They act first and foremost to advance their own interests, they remember how they’ve been treated (for good or ill) by PCs, and they are proactive in pursuing their agendas. Players who can find ways to make NPCs’ goals dovetail with their PCs’ goals will go far with them. PCs who run roughshod over NPCs and treat them as window dressing won’t have so rosy a time. I’m sure this sounds obvious, but it’s surprised a number of my previous players, and it may well surprise future ones.
Example: An NPC once told a former PC that if her childe got hurt under his watch, she’d be pissed and would take action. Well, that exact thing ended up happening; the childe got shot into torpor by anonymous gunmen. The former PC gave the NPC a phone call, told her happened, and told her to stay out of things while he investigated the gunmens’ identities. The NPC reacted with outrage. The former PC continued, telling her that she was not the only one who had a stake in events, and that he’d done her a courtesy by even paying that phone call. The NPC’s reaction basically amounted to, “Fuck you, it’s my childe, I don’t owe you jack.” After that, she became his enemy. She worked against his goals and made his life harder, in ways both obvious and subtle.
The whole thing came as a genuine surprise to the former PC’s player. It was also totally preventable: he could’ve asked the NPC to work together with him in uncovering the gunmens’ identities. He could’ve professed contrition and asked how she wanted to proceed with things. He could’ve offered her a bribe to do things his way for now. He could’ve threatened her with blackmail or some other form of harm if she interfered with his goals. Instead, he expected her to act totally counter to her own interests without giving her a compelling reason to do so. And she didn’t.
That’s what I mean. Make my NPCs believe they can help themselves by helping your PC, treat them as real people with valid feelings and desires, and your character will go far with them.
PC Experience totals regularly shift and flux. Players who want to make up for periods of low activity, who are new to the game and want to catch up with older PCs, or who simply want more XP to spend on things, may earn further Beats by contributing to the site in any of the following ways:
• Written contributions to the site are worth 0.1 Beats per 50 words (or 1 full Beat per 500 words). This can take the form of anything from quotes on character pages to fiction pieces to new NPCs to whatever. Your imagination’s the limit. Some of the more common types of past player contributions have included:
• Feedback posts, as explained here.
• NPC blurbs. These are the mini-biographies you’ve read on the various character pages. We are currently full up on vampires, and have a lot of ordinary mortals, but could use a lot more ghouls. Don’t bother with any of the other supernatural races. These blurbs can be for existing NPCs who haven’t received any, or original characters of your own creation, who I will endeavor to work into the game as soon as convenient.
• Location blurbs are also popular. Go for real locations here (New Orleans is full of interesting locales) but if you can think up a nifty fictional one, well, go for that too. Sample.
• So are full NPC wiki pages. These take more time, but are worth more XP, depending how much metaphorical ink you’re willing to spill. Once again, writeups can be for existing NPCs or ones of your own creation. Writeups must include a portrait, which artwork XP will be given for. Sample.
• Full location wiki pages. These are to location blurbs what NPC writeups are to NPC blurbs. Location pages are encouraged but not required to include a photo, which artwork XP will likewise be given for. Sample.
• Every piece of artwork is worth 0.1 Beats. (Or 1 Beat per ten pieces of artwork.) Post them in the logs, on an NPC’s bio page, a random article throughout the site, wherever, so long as they spruce the page up. Artwork should be consistent with the style of other pictures found throughout the site, and can be either photography or traditional drawings/digital images.
Every piece of artwork is worth 0.2 Beats if you adhere to the following OCD specifications: desaturate the image by 100% and give it a moderately thick black border. If you’re posting the image next to an NPC or location’s blurb, make the border 110% the size of the image’s shortest side.
• Use present tense, not past tense. Example: “Bob opens the door” vs. “Bob opened the door.”
• Use third person. Example: “Bob opens the door” vs. “I open the door.”
• When emoting your character’s thoughts or internally monologuing, use the _ tags instead of quotes. Example: I hate opening doors, Bob thinks.
• When communicating telepathically, use the _ tags preceded by :: in place of quotes. Example: :: I hate opening doors too, :: Jane’s voice sounds in Bob’s mind.
• When your character is communicating via the written word (whether email, texting, or plain old-fashioned letters), use the _ tags instead of quotes. Example: Dear Jane, Bob writes, I really hate opening doors. You have no idea. Sincerely, Bob
• When the GM summarizes an exchange, respond with a summary rather than line-by-line dialogue. Summaries are intended to briskly move the game along, so it defeats the point when the player types their response out word-for-word. (It also makes the tenor of the scene as a whole consistent.) Example:
GM: Jane writes back that she despises opening doors too. Her parents were killed by doors, and hatred has burned hot within her breast for all their kind ever since.
Bob: Encouraged, Bob pens yet another scathing diatribe denouncing doors in all their shapes and forms.
Combat is one advantage that live IRC sessions have over play-by-Hangouts as a format. Everyone is simultaneously online and the combat can get speedily resolved. (Theoretically, at least…)
That isn’t tenable over Hangouts, where players come and go, so the following policy aims to keep combats moving at a relatively brisk pace: Players have one day to take their PC’s action in a combat before their turn is automatically delayed past the next-acting character’s. If a PC’s turn is last in the initiative order, their turn gets skipped, and we cycle back to the first-acting character.
Example: The initiative order is PC Bob, PC Jane, NPC Joe. PC Bob has one day to take his action before the initiative order changes to PC Jane, PC Bob, NPC Joe.
PC Jane takes her action, and PC Bob is up again. PC Bob has one day to take his action before the initiative order changes to PC Jane, NPC Joe, PC Bob.
The GM has NPC Joe take his action, and PC Bob is up again. He has one day to take his action before his turn gets skipped and PC Jane is up for bat. The initiative order remains thereafter unchanging.
Players who expect to be absent for a day or more can simply request that the GM put a combat on hold. (i.e., “I am going to an out-of-town wedding this weekend, can we pause till Sunday night.”)
If a combat involves multiple PCs, the GM will typically not pause for a single absent player. Absent players, as an alternative to having their actions skipped, may also deputize the GM to take actions for their PC so as to avoid holding up other players. (I generally will not employ particularly creative tactics, but simple “fight or flight” ones. Clever ideas like your human-sized wizard polymorphing into a dragon after getting swallowed by a monster are for players to come up with.)
“One day” also means until midnight Pacific Time, aka 3 AM EST. In practice, if the GM goes to bed before midnight, wakes up the next day and finds that a player whose turn would’ve been delayed has taken their action at 4 AM, that action will stand. Changes in the initiative order are not considered official until the GM posts the updated order in the Initiative Hangout.
If a player forgets a bonus or penalty immediately after a dice roll, but someone remembers it before I describe the results in-character, we factor it in. Once the roll’s results have been described, any forgotten modifiers become null and void, for good or ill.
Remember that no bonus or penalty is ever higher than +5, and that any caps to your dice pools are just that, a cap. You apply bonuses or penalties first, and the cap second. You do not cap your dice pool and then apply bonuses or penalties.
Typically, when I’m asked a rules question and the answer will take some time to explain or doesn’t require a GM judgment call, I will tell players what page of the rulebook to look up the answer on. This is my not-so-subtle way of encouraging players to familiarize themselves with the game’s rules and preemptively answer their own questions. Rules-savvy players mean faster gameplay.
Our game might be confined to New Orleans, but it’s still a big setting. There’s lots of characters, lots of locales, and no end of clan/faction combinations a potential PC can be.
Consequently, players who wish to more fully explore this diversity of perspectives may play more than one PC. This tradition started when Lou’s player, whose PC was a ghoul, wanted to participate in George’s/Matheson’s trial with a PC who had more incentive to participate in those events and greater ability to affect their outcome. Afterwards, seeing that George’s player had enjoyed the brief cameos made by several preliminary PC concepts of his I’d reused as NPCs (Pietro Silvestri and Monty Lestrange, for the curious), I extended the same offer to him.
There are a number of factors that go into playing a secondary PC:
• If you are playing a neonate, secondary PCs may be brought in after your primary PC has been Embraced. This requirement may be waived for PCs that are ghouls or being played as mortals for especially prolonged periods.
• XP earned by either PC counts towards the totals of both PCs. Beyond the fact we’ll be splitting our time between two, tracking separate XP totals for different PCs like we used to proved tedious.
• Secondary PCs won’t ever directly cross paths with the same player’s primary PC. Even if they’re attending the same social event in the same room, their presence will simply be glossed over. I might have NPCs reference the non-active PC, or even give them a brief cameo, but the two PCs won’t ever directly interact.
• Secondary PCs can be mortals, ghouls, or vampires, all with starting character/neonate stats. I may be willing to extend ancilla-age character slots on a case-by-case basis.
• You can have more than one secondary PC. I’ve yet to encounter a player who’s wanted to have more than three total PCs: I suspect past that point it would become untenable to have all of them in active play at once. But if someone really wants to shoot for five characters, I’ll oblige.
• Breaks between stories, or the sudden introduction of an event your primary PC can’t participate in to your satisfaction, are the best times to introduce secondary PCs. (For example, the resolution of the Matheson trial would’ve been a good moment for George’s player to bring in a secondary PC.)
There have been a couple times where players believed that an NPC was reading their PC’s mind, Dominating them into speaking the truth, or simply had an Empathy/Subterfuge dice pool high enough to see through any lies the PC told. Players (it’s not been only one person) have then stated that their PC believed something which was less likely to result in negative consequences. When the PC’s beliefs mirror the player’s, that’s fine. When they don’t, that can be a problem, and here’s an example why:
Player Bob believes that Elder Jane is reading his neonate PC’s mind. Player Bob wants his PC to do something that he also believes Elder Jane would sabotage or punish him for. Player Bob declares that his PC agrees with Elder Jane and doesn’t want to do it, because she’s an elder and she knows best. Player Bob later has his PC “change their mind” and do whatever it is anyway.
That’s metagaming. Combine it with Declarations and Setups, where players have the power to rewrite the game’s continuity and play out new scenes in non-chronological order, and it can result in convoluted mental gymnastics that bog down the game with questions of at what time the PC did or didn’t believe in X.
To avoid this, I’m instituting a simple ruling: PCs believe the same things their players do. If the player intends to have their PC backstab an NPC (but not merely if the player is OOC contemplating the pros and cons of the idea), that’s what another character who uses Auspex on them will find out. It’s the same standard to which I hold NPCs: when they lie to PCs, players get Empathy/Subterfuge rolls to see through the deception. When PCs use truth-ferreting powers to suss out an NPC’s true motives, NPCs don’t conveniently “change their minds” at a later date. As in all things, the game is better when players and GMs refrain from metagaming.
For the most part, my approach here is pretty fast and loose. Many traits can be purchased instantly, while others require downtime.
If increasing the Attribute makes sense with your character’s recent actions (ie, raising Stamina or Wits after getting into repeated fights), or if you already have above average dots in the relevant Attribute, you can instantly spend XP to raise it.
I’m not particularly strict here, and am only likely to necessitate a waiting period for purchases that contradict a character’s established history. Wanting to raise a 98-pound weakling’s Strength 1 to a bodybuilder’s Strength 4, for example, will probably only be doable during downtime and following roleplay that indicates the weak character trying to build up their muscle mass.
These are a bit stricter, but still largely depend on the Skill to be increased. If a player’s character is using the Skill regularly, has high dots in it, or both, the player can spend the XP instantly.
Contrariwise, if a character hasn’t been using the Skill regularly, but none of her actions in-game have actually established that she has low dots, the player can instantly spend the XP and simply declare that their character knew the Skill all along, recently picked it up through training during off hours, etc. This happens all the time in books and TV shows.
If purchasing dots in the Skill would contradict a previously established fact about a character (ie, buying Brawl 3 after having the stuffing kicked out of him in a fight), downtime training will be in order. Mental Skills are particularly stringent in this regard. If a character has 0 Academics and the player wants to buy them up to Academics 3 (the equivalent of jumping from a high school education to a PhD), that’ll take an extended period of downtime.
Generally, the more dots purchased, and the more divorced from the character’s established history, the more likely it is that downtime training will be required.
Raising Skills to especially high dot ratings (4 and 5) is likely to require substantial IG justification before being allowed. Characters with such a level of skill are (or at least could be) internationally-regarded experts in their fields, and that level of expertise doesn’t come quickly or easily.
As with Skills, characters can instantly spend XP on Merits by retroactively declaring they’ve had them all along. For example, if a character buys Allies (Underworld) 2, the player might introduce Paulie the capo as an old pal of theirs. Paulie and the character were always friends, he just never got any screen time until now. TV shows do this sort of thing all the time.
Some Merits may be impossible to justify as part of a character’s hitherto unrevealed history. In that case, the GM will work them into the story within the next session or two. A few Merits may take longer and only be possible to purchase during downtime (such as establishing a new law firm from the ground up).
Disciplines take time to learn and require a teacher if they are out-of-clan. See “Learning Disciplines” on the house rules page for further information.
Humanity increases must be accompanied by in-game interactions with mortals that show an active effort on the character’s part to maintain a connection with humanity. Classic “remorseful killer” examples might include making restitution to a still-living victim, looking after a deceased victim’s surviving family, taking confession with a priest and doing the assigned penance, etc. However, even completely mundane activities like playing baseball, watching movies, filling out coloring books, or whatever else can also qualify: the only real prerequisite is that the character interacts with mortals and doesn’t have any ulterior motive for doing so (ie, not as a hunting strategy).
How Instantly Can Players Instantly Spend XP?
Anytime other than during the middle of a scene where the XP expenditure would be relevant (ie, no choosing to increase your Stamina just when you’ve been reduced to 1 Health in a firefight.) Changes to PC stats take effect at the start of the next scene or the end of the current one.
One exception exists to this: characters may use an Anticipation or Declaration to immediately spend accumulated XP on something, even during the middle of the scene. In this case, the Merit/Skill/Whatever purchased becomes an active plot point.
How Much XP Can I Save?
XP is meant to be spent, not saved for rainy days. Players may retain up to 5 unspent Experiences at any given time. The GM may make exceptions for players who are saving their XP for specific, later purchases that aren’t tenable at the current point in a PC’s narrative.
New Mortal/Neonate PCs: Mortal and neonate vampire PCs start the game with 3/4ths of the XP earned by the game’s current, least experienced PC. Further XP is earned in-game and (optionally) through work on the site’s wiki.
Secondary PCs: Secondary PCs share the same XP totals as primary PCs.
Dead PCs: If a PC dies, their full XP total carries over to the player’s next PC.
Retired PCs: On several occasions, players have wanted to retire PCs who bad things have happened to. This is counter to my gaming philosophy, as I believe players should roll with punches (and learn to punch back). While I don’t mandate that players continue to portray PCs they’re not having fun with, new PCs created after a retired PC has faced a significant but nonfatal setback start with 0 XP. They may still start with all of the XP earned from wiki site contributions, as that XP isn’t tied to PC actions and achievements. (In cases where the player has made too extensive wiki contributions to conveniently tally up, their new PC simply starts with 1/2 of their old XP total.) If the player later resumes play with the original PC (in effect, turning them into primary/secondary PCs), the GM may permit the original/primary PC’s full XP total to be brought over to the new/secondary PC.
New PCs created after an existing PC is retired under other circumstances carry over their full XP total.
Players track when their character regains Willpower. Every time a player feels their PC has fulfilled their Mask’s/Dirge’s/Virtue’s/Vice’s/whatever’s criteria for regaining Willpower, they should bring it to my attention. Example:
“Hey, GM, does punching out that guy for calling me a jerk me fulfill my Vice of Wrathful?”
Most of the time I’ll probably say yes, as the rulebook encourages GMs to err on the side of generosity.