Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a (real) storytelling game of (actual) personal horror

I'm thinking of hacking Vampire: the Masquerade to make it more story-ful. I was inspired by the Background traits and a request from a blog-commenter over at Story By the Throat!, and realized how Background traits were the "way in" to making V:tM, and perhaps White Wolf games in general, *actually* deal with "personal horror".

What if, instead of coldly tactical names like Contacts and Allies, you had, respectively, much more emotionally relevant traits with names like "People Who Think I'm Human" and "Lovers and Close Friends"? Some traits could stay the same, like Status (which is inherently social), but most of them would need to change.

More examples - how about "Vampires I've Cowed Into Submission" for Influence, and "My Human Victims" for Herd? One more - "Purity of My Blood" for Generation: you're either too young to inherit so much power, or you've killed some very important people to get where you are, and either way, it'd make sense to develop a certain level of disconnect from the mud-blood monsters.

Anything, anything at all to make it easier for players to treat the subject matter more appropriately, and less like dark-clad superheroes! The way the rules are set up currently, it's all too easy for a player to be told by the GM and fellow players to act one way (as though he's playing a storytelling game focused on a personal brush with horror), and to be encouraged by the rules and mechanics to act another way entirely (as though he's playing Marvel Superheroes, but everyone has to be "dark and creepy" caped crusaders).

This is the sort of split mind that D&D has pushed onto people historically, although 4th Edition seems to have much more clarity of purpose, encouraging people to go ahead and min-max and have the most effective characters they can - they're going to need them! ^_^

I downloaded an odd little document - a list of each White Wolf game (Old World of Darkness) and all the background traits made available in that game, and finally, which book(s) each trait was mentioned in. Kind of a strange reference document.

1 comment:

  1. I worked for years on an OWoD game, trying to instill it with horror. The mechanics certainly work against you during this process, especially if you are playing Werewolf. What I found I had to do as well was really play up the atmosphere of the world. If people think companies like Enron are bad here, man they would crap their pants if they knew what Tellus Video Games was up to. Or how about the commercials on tv that claim "Gays are sinful and evil, but don't worry Homogeneity Inc can help save your soul". Also, there is always something more powerful than the players, and if they go willy nilly about the night its going to hear of them, and probably inquire about them. A few sessions of running away from a shadow demon, or taking a bathroom break just to be pulled kicking and screaming down a toilet into a sewer filled with fomori might make them a little more cautious about what their characters will do. There are great forces and themes at work in OWoD, its probably my favorite setting EVER, but the mechanics tend to ruin the entire experience if you don't take the time to make sure it is run correctly, and that the players know what they are in for.