kaptainvon: Photo of me running D&D, wearing what appears to be half a Fourth Doctor costume.  It was very cold in that warehouse. (Kemmler)
Kaptain Von ([personal profile] kaptainvon) wrote in [community profile] worldofdarkness2010-03-15 07:48 am

Von's Advice: Victorian Age Vampire

I found this on a forum I've recently been thinking about returning to, and thought it was worth hauling out of the dustbin of history, dusting down and giving a new home here. It's by no means The One True Way to run Victorian Age Vampire or anything, just A Way To Run Victorian Age Vampire that's been quite successful.


During character creation, ask them where their characters get their blood from. Really make them think about it. "Homeless people" is boring and should be avoided, especially since most Vampire players create characters that have no reason to be swanning around the rookeries after dark. Do they have a trusted servant who bares vein for them twice a week for an extra sovereign? How does the servant feel about this? Above all, what would happen if that safety net of regular, planned, safe feeding was taken away? This is always a good plot to break out if they don't create one for themselves, or in the lull while you frantically work out how the hell the local Tremere are going to react to having their chantry filled with lawn ornaments or what the Toreador primogen thinks about having her childe's illegal blood doll left in her conservatory with a note saying "people who live in glass houses can't throw stones".

In addition to this, keep track of their blood usage. Remember they consume blood just in waking up, and will likely burn through a whackload in every combat encounter - but don't make feeding feel like recharging a battery or something offhand like that. If you want the characters' vampire nature to be fairly central to things, make sure that it's ever-present but subtle. If a character's hungry, they can smell passing humans, and it's intense - like the smell of a roast dinner when you haven't eaten all day. That drunkard with the red face is like a glass of mulled wine on a cold evening. Something you want. Something that'll make everything that little bit more bearable. Don't let them get away with swaggering through the streets of London swilling down prostitutes left, right and centre. Don't tell them how they feel either, though. Don't try to force angst.

Another big 'don't' involves including everything the books suggest should be there. I advise against feeling obliged to include every clan (in the old Vampire) or every rank within a covenant (in the new Vampire) as you'll end up with everyone being a chief and no-one being a brave, as it were. The important ones are the Prince, the Prince's Enforcer, at least three ranking elders and at least two major antagonists, plus a few people for all of these to order around (if you're running a Sabbat-centric game like I did, this converts into the Archbishop or about three Bishops, a senior Priest and a couple of rival packs). You really don't need to worry about every clan having its primogen or every covenant having all six of its 'board officials', as long as all the NPCs who are there have some connection to the PCs, some plot of their own that can advance on its own and keep the background to the PC's actions alive and natural, and their own place in the hierarchy. It helps if some of them are far more powerful/popular/important than the PCs just in case your players are a bit trigger-happy around NPCs you bother to describe - in fact, short-circuit that "if it gets a long description it's a villain" presumption straight-out by describing everything.

Atmosphere. Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. People have five senses. So do vampires, and theirs are often sharper. Paint broad strokes with some, fill in details with one or two, and if you really want to be creepy, take one away. If the characters can smell and taste the London Peculiar (that's 'fog' to the uninitiated) but can't see or hear jack, they'll be weirded out.

Remember, it's the World of Darkness; nothing is entirely what it seems to be. The decrepit bookshop is the front of the Tremere chantry's underground laboratory. The prosperous premises of St. Katherine's Dock hide Giovanni merchant necromancers whose waterlogged cellar is full of ghosts that can't be seen but can most definitely be smelt. Salisbury House looks like a fine limestone edifice, a house of the nobility, but there's always the thick, heady smell of incense emanating from the ground, and they're always looking for new servants. Tie sensual/aesthetic details into plot points.

Also, read a sickening amount of Dickens (for the broad social picture and marvellously eccentric, effective language), Wilde (who provides wonderful descriptive fuel for the kind of detached, cruel thinker that a lot of Vampire players are interested in playing) and Conan Doyle (for his excellent incidental details that appear in the Holmes stories).

[personal profile] miss_haitch 2010-03-21 08:31 am (UTC)(link)
Awesome, removing the cliched "homeless" route! I like this, especially the sensory input aspect - I hadn't considered that as a way of building up the feel of being a vampire for the players.