[VtR Strix Thingy] Story-Game-ish?

edited January 2014 in Story Games
So, since 2004 or something I've kinda been curious about Vampire, which at that time had just gotten re-booted or something into Vampire: The Requiem. I bought the rules, never did anything with 'em, paged through them last summer, got excited a little bit by a few of the ideas. But on further analysis it just seemed like the game system didn't really do a whole lot to deliver "gothic horror." Like, you had some super powers, and you had some blood-fuel, and you had a little humanity gauge that made you crazier as it went down, but that was essentially it. It was smooth and simple, but it didn't seem to force you into actual horror stories very well.

In the last month or two, Vampire: the Requiem has been overhauled / rebooted / redesigned as Vampire: Blood & Smoke Strix Chronicles Spooky Words. Word is that Vampire: New Spooky Words "actually does what Requiem was trying to do" or something along those lines.

Has anyone read it? Played it? What is the verdict among the discerning aesthetes of the Story Gaming sphere? I ask because I bought the dang VtR: Not So Spooky core books and don't feel like paying for an overhaul if it doesn't really do the trick.

Comments

  • I've read it. It's really good, has some mechanical whoppers (as White Wolf games do) but is creepy/fun. If you didn't like Requiem's core experience I wouldn't recommend it because it doesn't change that. Do you have specific questions?
  • James, I'll play it with you if you promise to throw in an ethereal platypus!

    (Says an entirely unhelpful poster.)
  • JD, here is what I think about when I think about vampires: "Damn it, the library is closed. Cause it's nighttime. How am I going to read the latest Star Trek novel?" (I realize this is a trivial problem in Vampire: make your mortal check it out. But it's the type of frustration that would amuse me to role-play.)

    Another vampiric moment came when I was waiting at the deli line, and these two women were asking the butcher to differentiate between two cuts of meat. And I found myself trying to differentiate between the womens' necks to see who would taste better, and then recoiling like I was some kind of weirdo.

    With Vampire, the game itself (as opposed to the concept of vampires), what I like about is that, WHAM, you are a drug addict and when really high you've got super powers. But there are 5-20 other addicts out there too, and they're all competing for the same territory, some of whom are batshit crazy, and all of whom will fuck with your shit for no reason at all. So to push back against these guys you need to fuel your addictive super powers; fueling your addictive super powers creates all kinds of shitty behavior and off-balance complications in the mortal sphere, and the rival addicts are just waiting for a chance to push you off a cliff when you're unbalanced.

    (I am intensely disinterested in VtR's political parties. I want a DiTV town you can never leave, where the repercussions from Sin keep reverberating forever, until everyone you know is a victim or a monster.)
  • edited January 2014
    Therein lies the great weakness of Vampire as horror engine -- the irrelevance in play of vampires' impact on mortals. I assume White Wolf has no interest in that -- it'd be a pretty shocking about-face.

    I wonder... if there was a gothic horror game out there where only one person gets to play a vampire and everyone else plays their mortal friends/family, would anyone play it?
  • edited January 2014
    That's what I don't get, actually. The only vampire fiction I know is basically Dracula and works derived from Dracula, and the scary / shitty thing about vampires is that they want to eat you. And maybe, just maaaaaaaybe, it wouldn't be so bad to get eaten.

    I would think, even once you flip the tables around and you go from being the prey to being the predator, it would still be kinda rough. "Well, Jack, we've had some good times together... Remember that time we took the sailboat out on the lake, and we crashed it into the overpass? And the mast broke? And I pretended that my shoulder was dislocated so you had to row us back by yourself? Wow, I wish I could still cry for laughing. ... Anyway, look, I've always enjoyed talking to you but I have to make you my mindless slave now, because this other vampire will do it first, just to mess with me, if I don't beat him to it. Sorry Jack. You were a good guy. NOM NOM NOM."

    It would be tedious to do this every time you have to eat, but on the other hand, V:tR allows you to abstract it into a single dice roll, over and done, which seems a little too pat. Eating people is gonna cause problems.
  • Yeah. A good vampire horror game would make you care about people first and then eat them. Nameless disposable NPC lunch would be off the menu.
  • Games need more cowbell, and more ethereal platypi.
  • I probably can't make myself to try to run a heavy trad game, but damn if that book's reputation doesn't tempt me to try. I like all the clans and orders, they're perfect. But the amount of stuff to read and understand and prep? Yeah, tell me when the story-game conversion comes out.
    That's what I don't get, actually. The only vampire fiction I know is basically Dracula and works derived from Dracula, and the scary / shitty thing about vampires is that they want to eat you. And maybe, just maaaaaaaybe, it wouldn't be so bad to get eaten.
    There is a lot of great vampire fiction, some very modern and not that Drac-derived. For movies, check out Near Dark, the Swedish film Let the Right One In or Byzantium.

  • But here is the question: does Vampire: New Spooky Words help me tell the tale of a vampire who just wants to read the latest Peter David Star Trek novel in peace but is constantly interrupted by these asshole other vampires who keep pushing and pushing him? Seriously, Lady Porpentine, this is the last fuckin' time with that "bite his dog" bullshit. My dog is off-motherf*ckin'-limits.

    ???
  • edited January 2014
    Unfortunately, creating a character who just wants to read a novel and is interrupted by other vampires is a common failure state of all editions of Vampire. It's absolutely mechanically possible, and the setting makes it so this is a boring character choice that is a drag on the game.

    (This is why character Aspirations are probably the best addition to Requiem that the new rules add.)

    If all you want is Dracula, then play Annalise. Masquerade and Requiem are both about Anne Rice-an vampires primarily.

    This is the first question you actually asked, so I answered it. I take your previous comments to be that you don't like Vampire, so you still won't like it. It's the same game (it's been the same game for 4 editions, which is a great achievement if you think about it.)
  • James, you almost make me want to play Vampire. (Which no one has ever done before! Add in the platypus, and I'm yours.)

    Have you seen "Undying", the AW-based Vampire game? If so, what do you think of it?

    (I'm curious what all of you other readers think, too!)

    And JD's right on with the Annalise thing, though that's a whole different kettle of fish.
  • Actually, does someone mind taking a brief detour to explain the appeal of Anne Rice-style vampires? I read Interview with a Vampire as a teenager and it didn't really leave much of an impression on me. It really seems to me that taking the humans out of the vampire story is a mis-step, but I can't argue with her sales figures!
  • Essentially the "Anne Rice" school vampire books view the vampire as a character rather than a monster. Fred Saberhagen actually published the Dracula Tape in 1975 (a year before Interview's first edition) whch took a similar approach, but using Dracula itself as a model. Before Rice and Saberhagen the idea of the Vampire as a fully fleshed character capable of being the protagonist of its own story wasn't a going concern.

    Rice was also one of the writers who laid the groundwork for the subgenre that we currently talk about as Paranormal Romance. The appeal of those novels has a lot to do with taking the fantastic (or horrofic) elements of fantastic and speculative fiction and then making the central plot element relational and emotional rather than the traditional conflict and challenge orientation.
  • In theory, the idea is supposed to be that vampires are trying to stay human, but are caught in a bunch of double-binds that make that impossible to sustain in the long term. The games are set up with the presumption that you want to hold on to your human identity and moral centre, and you want to survive that way indefinitely. Those are the players' goals. The challenge is that everything you have to do to survive requires you to make deeper and more disturbing moral compromises.

    First, you need to harm or kill mortals to live from week to week. You can stalk strangers, or you can victimize someone repeatedly. So you get to choose: are you an opportunistic parasite, or an abusive parasite? You can put off feeding for a time, but the longer you wait, the greater the risk that you'll lose control and kill someone anyway. Or maybe, just maybe, you've confided in someone who gives their consent to let you feed from them. But if another vampire finds out a mortal knows about you, both of your lives will be forfeit. Not to mention what could happen if someone else in your feeder's life finds out about you.

    Second, you need to compete with other vampires for status and resources, and they're formidable opponents. You have all sorts of supernatural powers you can use against them, but they often hide behind mortal dupes and pawns. How do you deal with them? And your powers typically fuel your hunger, meaning you have to feed more often. You can fight a war of attrition against other vampires, but it's not you who ultimately pays the price—it's the mortals around you.

    So, for me, the games are all about making awful choices in the most insanely messed up, no-win situations. It's all about discovering answers to questions like, What are you willing to do to survive? Who are you willing to hurt to be powerful? How far will you go?
  • Another consistent theme in Vampire the Masquerade (up to second edition at least I honestly can't speak to 3rd Ed and Requiem they seemed to be trying very hard to be a game I didn't want to play) is that the characters are sort of stuck between two worlds.

    In the world of vampires they are essentially children. The power structure is implacable and more powerful than the characters can imagine. The rulers of their city may have been born before the crusades and have the power to defy the laws of nature. Outside the city packs of werewolves roam, the weakest of these individually is the match of an entire coeterie of neonates, and they rarely walk alone.

    In the world of humand they are sickeningly powerful capable of ripping apart the strongest man woth barely a thought. Capable of bending the strongest will, vanishing from sight and moving as fast as lightning they are almost like gods.

    So the game, when handled well, offers this amazing tension for characters.
  • In theory, the idea is supposed to be that vampires are trying to stay human, but are caught in a bunch of double-binds that make that impossible to sustain in the long term. The games are set up with the presumption that you want to hold on to your human identity and moral centre, and you want to survive that way indefinitely. Those are the players' goals. The challenge is that everything you have to do to survive requires you to make deeper and more disturbing moral compromises.

    First, you need to harm or kill mortals to live from week to week. You can stalk strangers, or you can victimize someone repeatedly. So you get to choose: are you an opportunistic parasite, or an abusive parasite? You can put off feeding for a time, but the longer you wait, the greater the risk that you'll lose control and kill someone anyway. Or maybe, just maybe, you've confided in someone who gives their consent to let you feed from them. But if another vampire finds out a mortal knows about you, both of your lives will be forfeit. Not to mention what could happen if someone else in your feeder's life finds out about you.
    See, that's exactly the game I want to play. I can see that Vampire: the Requiem can sorta do this, though it doesn't seem to be especially attuned to it. Does Vampire: New Spooky Words represent a significant improvement in this regard?
    Rice was also one of the writers who laid the groundwork for the subgenre that we currently talk about as Paranormal Romance. The appeal of those novels has a lot to do with taking the fantastic (or horrofic) elements of fantastic and speculative fiction and then making the central plot element relational and emotional rather than the traditional conflict and challenge orientation.
    I'm totally down with that, but it seems like the impact here primarily is coming from the protagonist's relationship with humans / lost humanity, rather than other vampires (who can act as antagonists, foils, confidantes, or whatever).

  • I'm totally down with that, but it seems like the impact here primarily is coming from the protagonist's relationship with humans / lost humanity, rather than other vampires (who can act as antagonists, foils, confidantes, or whatever).
    It depends on what you mean. Vampire the Masquerade has at least three major sources of tension. There's the quest to remain human, but there's also the titular requirement that vampires remain hidden. That conflict typically has more to do with conflict inside the vampire community. Then there's the political element which is almost entirely vampire on vampire.

    If you're talking about paranormal romance as a genre that's not at all true. Depending on where you draw the line (I won't speculate, there's a lot of troublesome gender issues on where the line between "paranormal romance" and "urban fantasy written by a woman" is), but in a series like Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate almost everyone is a "monster" of some kind. In general Paranormal Romance has as much or more flexibility as any other type of genre fiction.
  • Yes, the Strix Chronicle doesn't change Requiem's general approaches on any of these subjects.

    There's an optional Humanity system replacement in Danse Macabre that I like a lot better than Humanity for maintaining connections with mortals as a core element of gameplay, but it's optional, it's in a supplement, that supplement is not the Strix Chronicle.

    It's best to think of the Chronicle as a campaign supplement primarily. It doesn't change the core game.
  • A perfect answer. Thank you, Jason!
  • edited January 2014
    Whenever I played VtM, we roleplayed through feeding the first time and then handwaved it thereafter once it became clear that it was risk- and consequence-free. So, here, a patch in the familiar AW style:

    Whenever you go out to feed on a mortal (not a Ghoul), roll 2d6:

    10+ You successfully isolate easy prey and can do with them exactly as you like. Answer all of the questions below (see 7-9) as you like. Also, you may feed your prey your blood to begin turning them into a Ghoul if you wish.

    7-9 You feed, but not everything goes perfectly. You may choose two of the questions below to answer as you like. The GM answers the rest.
    - Do you kill them?
    - Do you give them a horrific experience, an ecstatic one, or never let them know what hit them, or something else?
    - Do you get all the blood you need?
    - Do you leave any evidence by which you could be tracked?
    - Do they have friends, relatives or allies who matter in your own vampiric or human worlds?
    - Do you see anything in them that reminds you of your own humanity?

    6- You fail to find easy prey. You can choose to either go hungry or enter combat. If you choose the latter, tell the GM how you wound up in this fight without a clear advantage.



    If you're trying to go more emo and less tactical, ditch the "evidence" question and make damn sure that the character has a "human world" that matters.

    Separately, James, I've been told a lot about Undying, and though it sounds great to me, I think it's more about leverage and vampire society than about humanity.

  • The way I do feeding is I yell "Who's drinking blood tonight?" If there is more than one hand up, I pick someone who hasn't had a feeding scene recently and they get to have a scene about it where something is a bit off or goes wrong or some weird/awful thing happens. The rest use the simple hunting die roll.
  • By the way, how often do WoD vampires need to feed and how often do they kill the victim?
    It's best to think of the Chronicle as a campaign supplement primarily. It doesn't change the core game.
    I don't think it's just a campaign supplement: AFAIK a total vampire newb can run bona-fide V:tR campaigns using only that book. Isn't it a campaign supplement PLUS all the old stuff, only rewritten?
  • By the way, how often do WoD vampires need to feed and how often do they kill the victim?
    How often they feed normally depends how much combat they've been in/how many satanic powers they use.

    It's pretty rare a victim is outright killed by someone feeding unless it's intentional. In oWoD killing someone by feeding was a pretty good way to kill someone. Not so much in Requiem.
    I don't think it's just a campaign supplement: AFAIK a total vampire newb can run bona-fide V:tR campaigns using only that book. Isn't it a campaign supplement PLUS all the old stuff, only rewritten?
    That's true - I meant in terms of the changes.
  • In VTR you need one point of blood to wake up each night, and you can usually hold around, what, 7 or something to begin with. Assuming no crazy injuries and no expensive satanic powers, you're going to have to feed at the end of a week or so. The bad news is that once you start running real low on blood, you are more likely to enter a feeding frenzy when you do feed--which makes it more likely you'll kill your prey.

    Humans generally hold a similar amount, but only recuperate one point after 2 days. so you can't sustain yourself by feeding only on one guy.
  • I'm not really into horror, so when I have either run or played VtM, I did so with a sort of "mafia" theme in mind. That is, the vamps operate as a secretive power structure, like a criminal syndicate that needs to stay out of view for a bunch of reasons, and crucially then, needs to exercise some kind of oversight of the activities of its members. There's quite a lot of mileage to be had from that, without delving into vamp-on-vamp predation or the struggle to retain humanity very much; the whole thing can be treated more or less as an exaggerated metaphor for organised crime.
  • That's true - I meant in terms of the changes.
    Just checking/nitpicking.
    I'm not really into horror, so when I have either run or played VtM, I did so with a sort of "mafia" theme in mind. That is, the vamps operate as a secretive power structure, like a criminal syndicate that needs to stay out of view for a bunch of reasons, and crucially then, needs to exercise some kind of oversight of the activities of its members. There's quite a lot of mileage to be had from that, without delving into vamp-on-vamp predation or the struggle to retain humanity very much; the whole thing can be treated more or less as an exaggerated metaphor for organised crime.
    Yeah, the mafia analogy is pretty natural, vampires are just more literal bloodsuckers. Actually, if one (not referring to you here) is not into occult horror and superpowers at all, I'd just play a straight-up Godfather game.
  • I think the new Strix Chronicles are just the end point of a second generation of Requiem books. Where they went from a very modular setting with a focus on the political covenants back to something like a "meta plot" and scarier Monsters, that are different from your regular Vampires. The Strix (however you do the plural of them). They did show up in the very well done Clanbooks for Requiem, who I made me like the game more than any stuff that came out before and gave those Clans, their own identities. More focus on the clans and Vampirism as a supernatural curse that you have no say in gave another option to play Requiem and the Strix are cool enough as enemies. The clanbooks also are cool examples of "What am I actually going to do with this" for the materials provided before them. The books about covenants were more about philosophies and choices the Vampires make about their unlife. Where the Clanbooks and Strix' are something that happens to them and likely won't change for the better.

    I have not read the new book completely yet but I see it as a "How do I do the Strix from those clanbooks as a campaign" thing and more of the second generation of sourcebooks. Also more "What am I actually going to do with Requiem". So if you just got the core book and were wondering that, reading the Clanbooks in order of publication and Scary Words might not be the bad idea.
    You can do Story Gamey things with it too. But the NWOD rules are pretty trad, even if they aren't that intrusive either.
  • Agreed on the assessment of clanbooks vs. covenant books. Actually the long line of clanbooks going back to 1ed are all "of a type" - they help you play the game instead of design or run a campaign. Which is pretty cool.
  • This is a couple of weeks late, but I've run a couple of sessions of Vampire: Spooky Words (my new favorite nickname for this game) now and can say that it definitely increases the impact that humanity has on your character, though not necessarily the impact that you have on humanity.

    The #1 new aspect that reflects this is the Touchstone. In the overhaul to the Humanity system they added a thing that ties your character to her humanity. This thing can be a person, place, or item, but the point is that it reminds them of or reinforces their human identity. This Touchstone gives you nice bonuses on Humanity rolls, but at the same time is a major source of trouble.

    If your Touchstone's in trouble, there's a greater chance that you'll Frenzy. Losing a Touchstone is a definitive Breaking Point-what they've renamed sins to-and losing Humanity is even more painful than it used to be. Degenerations from pre-God-Machine Chronicle nWoD were bad and all, but now in Vampire: Spooky Words they've replaced them with Banes, which neatly encapsulate the fun problems vampires had in mythology like aversion to holy symbols, needing to be invited into private homes, and the like.

    You can get new Touchstones, and it's heartily recommended, because otherwise you lose a couple of Humanity after a few feeding scenes and them lose the benefits of an attached Touchstone, even if the Touchstone is still around. Touchstones explicitly can't be full-fledged supernaturals, so you can't just vamp a lover to be with totes 4eva. This leaves them vulnerable to the machinations of your rivals.

    Overall, I think this aspect in particular finally brought in that much-needed "human element" in an elegant way.

    Also, the Condition mechanic means that Vampire finally gets to have "Sad Things Written on Index Cards" as part of the game, and that's just great.
  • Agreed on both!

    I have been using the Atrocity system from Danse Macabre for some time, I'm eager to try out Touchstones, I think it strikes a middle ground between the Humanity and Atrocity systems.
  • Isn't that mechanic the same thing as Fetters from Wraith 1e?
  • Maybe. I didn't play any oWoD. I didn't get into the franchise until Changeling: The Lost and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (roughly four years too late I might add). I do hear lots of good stuff about Wraith.
  • edited January 2014
    Fetters are different primarily because you can (and the game directs you to) "resolve" Fetters - to work out why they're keeping you from Transcending. In Vampire you cling paranoiacally to your Touchstones, and find out what your enemy's are.
Sign In or Register to comment.