Dark Vigil Game


This is a forum thread in which we can discuss the potential of a game run over the Internet, either Skype or Play-By-Post, that was proposed in the comments of Morbus' "The End of my Tabletop Era" article (http://www.gamegrene.com/node/1244#comments). For lack of a better established name, I'll refer to this as the Dark Vigil game until we can come up with something better. I'll quote from the relevant comments there to facilitate discussion here.

Lorthyne: "I almost want to plan a game about this situation now, about a group of normal, wildly different people drawn together, either in person or via the Internet, by their common love for a hobby, object, or other activity that soon learn that the threads of the universe are only held together by this simple, mundane behavior that is overlooked by the general populace. Fighting against insurmountable odds and only seeming to delay the inevitable, they fight anyway. Don't Rest Your Head, maybe?"

aeon: "I have some completely self-serving ideas for plotlines and settings I would readily contribute. I like the idea of an ongoing interactive narrative, but I just would not want to run a game and deal with rolly numbery bits. See above for why. Probably the two don't mesh well, though, so this is probably the world's most useless comment."

Tzuriel: "I think we should go for it. How do you think we should do it? There are a number of games that are perfect for the idea - Hunter, Don't Rest Your Head (as Lorthyne already mentioned), Dogs in the Vineyard, any detective kind of game, a dark fantasy setting, etc. We could do it play by post, in which case everybody gets to influence the storyline, or we could actually set up a semi-weekly game over skype or such. I'm good for either."

Lorthyne: "I've been itching to try my shiny new Dresden Files RPG, which has that blend of detective and dark fantasy. If we were to do it play by post, we would probably have to go with a low-mechanic, high-narrative system, if we use a system at all.

I'm gonna create a new thread to discuss this in, since it's kind of off-topic for this article."

I've been mulling over some ideas for this game, and I definitely want it to be created cooperatively, so I'm gonna throw out my ideas and let those who are interested in being involved pick them to pieces.

For those who aren't familiar, the Dresden Files RPG is, obviously enough, based on the successful novel series of the same name by Jim Butcher. The novels follow the exploits of one Harry Dresden, a Sam Spade-esque character who is Chicago's only professional wizard private investigator. He hires out for private work, but most of his income (and dangerous jobs) come from working as a police consultant for Chicago PD's Special Investigations, which handles anything that can't been explained by normal science. It's a modern fantasy world with a really dark twist. Very few humans are aware of the very dangerous, very real supernatural threats, mostly because it's easier to disbelieve than face the facts.

The RPG is designed to replicate the gritty supernatural investigation feel of the novels, all while providing a powerful sense of character drama. It's a system (FATE) where a character's personal motivations and core beliefs have as much impact on the mechanics as their skills and talents do. It's also a system in which a pure, "vanillia" mortal that's been clued-in to the supernatural can have as much influence and power in the story as a powerful human wizard, a werewolf, a religious champion, or a human with a minor supernatural talent.

The idea I've been tossing around involves a setting in modern-day Ireland. Both the novels and the RPG rulebooks make reference to the idea/theory that the historical Viking beserkers were actually lycanthropes. In the setting, a lycanthrope is different from the other varieties of werewolf in that they don't actually change shape as much as change mind. During the time of the full moon, lycanthropes channel a beastial spirit into their minds. They don't actually change form, but they gain heightened senses, awareness, speed, strength, and resistance to pain and injury. Along with that comes a pack instinct (assuming they're channeling a wolf-like spirit, we could use some other animal, if you find that more interesting), and a more impulse-driven, beastial, instinctive state of mind.

I'm thinking that centuries earlier, a large clan of lycanthrope Viking beserkers invaded a town on the coast of Ireland, and having no other available help, the townsfolk turned to the Summer Court of the Faeries in the Nevernever for help. Making a powerful magical bargain, the people were able to fight off the beserkers in a bloody battle with heavy losses, but in turn gave the Summer Court a powerful presence in the town, which eventually grew to a decent-sized city. We can flesh out more of the city details in this thread.

However, the gruesome battle left a bloody impact on the battleground, and at some regular interval (I was thinking the anniversary of the battle at first, but now I like every full moon better), ghosts of those fallen in battle, both Irish and Viking warriors, materialise, fighting the same battle over and over again. Mortals on the Irish side join in the fray, ensuring that the Viking ghosts don't accomplish what their mortal counterparts could not. The terms of the contract between human and faerie were accidentally such that the Summer Court must begrudgingly assist the mortals every time the battle is repeated.

From the mortal persepective, this endless warfare appears to be the most dedicated and well-organized boffer LARP in all of Ireland. A major portion of the current faerie assistance is the heavy use of glamours that maintain that illusion. Except for a select few people who are clued-in to the reality of this supernatural conflict (read: PCs), most of the combatants enter, fight, and leave the arena thinking they've just participated in an incredibly immersive live-action roleplaying experience. Little do they know that without their participation, the ghost warriors would overrun this coastal city, laying waste to its mortal inhabitants. With the rise of electronic gaming and other more marketable industries, the number of LARPers willing to dedicate an entire day every month to the experience are dwindling, threatening the future success of this endeavor.

What do you guys think? This is entirely flexible, I just wanted to throw something out there to have a starting point.

I also want to point out that comments, ideas, and suggestions are welcome from anyone, whether or not you feel you could commit to being a part of the PBP or Skype game. I'd like for this to be a Gamegrene community poject, even if not everyone can be actively involved.

Sounds interesting. I did some research on the Dresden Files, and I think I'll have to grab myself some copies. But anyways. The idea itself sounds pretty cool. But I'd like some more info on the battle. I'm assuming because people still think it's a LARP, no one actually dies from the battle? That, or I'm assuming that if they die something happens to ensure the people don't really notice.

And the one thing I never fully understood was what exactly the Courts were in the Dresden Files. 'Cause I heard tell of the Summer Court, the Winter Court, the Red Court, and I think the White Court. Perhaps you could clear up my ignorance on the subject?

I'll let Lorthyne talk about the specifics of Dresden files because I actually haven't read them yet.

I gotta say, I really love the quirky eccentricity combined with the dirty expediency of the idea. I'd actually love to play this. I'm assuming the LARP would be like when all those people get together dressed up in fake armor with fake swords and fight each other? It would be so fun to play that with all these people pretending to kill each other while us PCs actually know the real stakes of what's going on. Perhaps what happens is that they have to have enough people for the returning spirits to inhabit, essentially to fight through, and, if they don't have enough people, those spirits are loose on the city for the night, wrecking havoc poltergeist-style, perhaps even stealing away children or members of the town populace. In fact, I have an idea off of this - how about, instead of the PCs being actively involved in the battle, we're the people who stay in town attempting to hunt down these escaping spirits and save as many people as possible. A bunch of roleplayers who don't get to join the roleplay because they're too busy saving the city.

The second question is why are these roleplayers so special? Perhaps they're "fey-touched" as part of a select group chosen every generation who is aware of this curse? I think there's a lot of places we could go with this.

I also don't think we really need care about what the vikings were, lycanthrope or whatever. The important bit is the battle, and all you need for the initial pact between the fey and the townspeople is the fact that the vikings were coming. We might even want to have this town be the town that "saved" Ireland (historical accuracy aside), and so this monthly thing is actually something like a convention that people all across Ireland come to be a part of. Some of the PCs could be from other parts of Ireland.

@ Eruantien

I can see where your confusion comes from, and it's about to get a little more confusing because we're actually talking about two different groups of supernatural baddies here.

The Summer (Seelie) and Winter (Unseelie) Courts are the two main divisions between faeries. These aren't Tinkerbell Disney faeries, though, more like Brothers Grimm "I'll give you what you want in exchange for you firstborn child" dirty, scheming faeries. There are faeries that haven't picked a side, but most of them owe allegiance to one side or the other. You can't pin either side as "good" or "bad" guys. They're both equally nasty, selfish, and willing to screw you over for their benefit if you make one mistake. The Summer Court tend to be a little easier to deal with, but still just as treacherous. The Summer Court is associated with life, growth, change, health, etc, while the Winter Court is associated with death, decay, hibernation, cold, stagnation, that sort of thing. Both Courts are locked in this immortal rivalry with one another, jockeying for power and influence.

The other Courts, associated with colors, are different groups of vampires. In there, you have the Black, Red, White, and Jade Courts. The Black Court vampires are your typical, downright terrifying Dracula-esque vampires. In fact, it's stated numerous times in the novels and the RPG books that Bram Stoker's "Dracula" was pushed for by the White Court as a way to teach humans how to kill Black Court vampires. More so than other vampires, Black Courters have superhuman speed, strength, intelligence, magical prowess, but are susceptible to sunlight, holy symbols, holy water, garlic, stakes, and decapitation. Politically, the Black Court are the weakest group, but individually, they're the scariest. Red Court vampires are black, slimy, bat-like creatures that spend most of their time behind inhumanly sensual "flesh masks" that make them appear to be human. Red Court vampires feed on blood, have a narcotic saliva they use to incapacitate their prey, and are also much tougher physically than humans, but are susceptible to sunlight, holy symbols, and fire. White Court vampires are psychic vampires, feeding on negative emotions (usually lust, but also cases of fear and despair feeding WCV are documented, and anger-feeders have been suggested but not encountered). White Court vampires are the most like humans physically, but have supernatural abilities to provoke the emotions that they feed on in others. Humans can be turned into a Black or Red Court vampire through the feeding influence of the respective court, but White Court vampires are born, not made. Nothing is really known about the Jade Court other than they're based in Asia somewhere and one or two of the characters with Asian heritage in the series have mentioned encountering them.

Regarding whether or not LARPers die in the conflict, we could solve that a couple of ways. If we want to go really dark, we could say that the people lost in the conflict just don't return home to their friends and family, but no body is found and no concrete evidence of where they may have gone can be found. They just disappear. That could even tie in to the idea that the numbers of LARPers are dwindling, because every once in a while, people don't come back when they go to this event. Word spreads, and fewer people sign up. Or, we could go with the idea that what's important for the success of the battle is not that people actually fight there, but that they show up ready to fight, and that's the thing that influences the battle.

@ Tzuriel

I guess you're right, that the lycanthrope origin of the Vikings isn't really important. That's what sparked the idea for me in the first place, so it just stayed a part of it. Regardless, the only people that would actually know that there was more involved than just a re-enactment of a famous historical battle would be the supernaturally "clued-in" anyway.

I like the idea of Viking ghosts getting loose on the city if the battle doesn't go well.

In terms of why the PC's are special enough to be involved, I was thinking that would be more of an individual choice. They could be roleplayers who have major, minor, or no supernatural talents and recognize what's really going on. They could be associated with the Faerie Courts in some way, as changelings (offspring of a faerie of some sort and a human, who must eventually choose to embrace one of their two heritages), a Knight of the Summer or Winter Court (A mortal selected by the Queen of each Court who is empowered with Faerie magic in exchange for services rendered. Kind of like the wetworks guy for each Court. There's only one of these for each Court), or part of a select fey-touched family or group with the duty to carry on, so to speak. Or they could be something else entirely. We'll do a collaborative city and character creation as we get more things nailed down.

This is a weird thing, so forgive me if it comes out strangely. The idea itself that we have so far is pretty good, I think. I'm a little too foggy on the Dresden Files (since I haven't actually READ them) to provide any productive input via plot, but I feel we're perhaps leaning a bit too magical. In a way, I fear that the magical aspect of the Dresden Files will overshadow the fact that these people (Us, the PCs) were drawn together by a love of something and discover that the threads of the universe are held together by something mundane and overlooked. I will admit that the LARP idea basically covers this, yet I have this feeling. I dunno. It's probably an idle thought, but I thought I might as well put it up for discussion or whatever.

Perhaps keep the magic parts in, but not as a main focus? And then focus a bit more on the people and the "mundane behavior" which culminates into the LARP and spiritual battle. I dunno if I'm making sense, now that I've read all this to myself. Oh well. The creative process at work, I suppose.

lol it's all good. Brainstorming is for spitting it out. Worry about being all sophisticated later.

I think you're right, Eru, in that we're going too far into the magical aspect of it. I do love the idea that the world is held together by what could be considered a passing fad. I'm just not sure where to go with it. It might be a good idea, as I think Eru's suggesting, to have all the PCs, at least at first, be normal people, caught up in their love for the roleplay. That, of course, forces the question of how they discover the supreme importance of their hobby. I like the concept that only the PCs know of the magical aspect of their get together. I'm not really sure where to go with it though.

As far as contributing, I don't think you need to worry about that. I also haven't yet read the Dresden Files books, but there's really no problem with either of us contributing. Just throw out ideas and see what catches.

Perhaps maybe, the PCs use a little magic in their roleplaying? Perhaps when they get together for sessions, they use a little magic themselves to enhance their enjoyment of the hobby. Maybe the magic was an inherent part of the roleplaying hobby, yet went unnoticed due to lack of interest and dedication from other people?

Yeah, now that I think about it, it would be a whole lot more compelling to have the PCs be a group of "vanilla" mortals or maybe have some minor magical talents, but that by and large, they're regular people fighting against this magical threat in the only way they know how.

DFRPG actually has different power levels built into the game, so you can decide whether you want to run a group of PC's that are "just getting their feet in the water," supernaturally speaking, or are "chest-deep" or "submerged". This game would definitely work better as a low-power one. I like the idea that the PCs are on their own not because there isn't anyone else to take care of it, but because the problem seems so minor to the heavy hitters that they chase after the much larger problems threatening humanity. So, it falls to this group of mostly normal nerds to keep this one sector of the world in order, because if they don't, it's going to spiral out of control faster than anyone can do anything about.

I really like the way the game is set up to let mortals work on almost equal footing with the "more powerful" beings out there. Here's how that works. I'll quote from the "Maxims of the Dresdenverse" section of the book:

"Monsters have Nature, Mortals have Choice
Almost all beings that could be considered “monsters” are, one on one, far more powerful than the average mortal. They have great strength, implausible toughness, blinding speed, and unnatural powers. What they don’t have is
choice. A monster’s nature is oriented towards fulfilling its hungers. Vampires need emotion or blood or death, loup-garoux (a type of werewolf) need the hunt and the kill, fae literally cannot step outside their natures or break oaths. These entities have power, but they don’t have the option of saying no. They are what they’re made to be—and some things are simply made cruel, bloodthirsty, or just plain evil.
On the other hand, mortals have options: choice. That’s their great strength and their great responsibility. Only animals and monsters can truthfully say that they can’t do anything else, or that they can’t be other than what they are.Every human being can make a decision about what to do or not do, what to accept and what to refuse, whether to kill or not kill.
That said, the situation is often grey and not clear-cut. There are those few who are part mortal and part monster: vampires who struggle to fight their hungers and do the right thing; werewolves who chose lycanthropy to get the
strength to defend their community; wizards who accept help from dark sources, but hope to restrain the urges that threaten to engulf them. Choice is the overwhelming theme of these individuals’ lives. Will they retain their humanity
or will they become monsters? And is there any way that those who are now monsters can perhaps regain some degree of humanity, some capacity for choice?"

The way that this is represented mechanically in the game is through aspects and Fate points. In the system, each PC (and NPC, and location) has certain "Aspects," short phrases that summarize elements about the person, location, or scene that are important. Each player has a collection of Fate points, a form of currency, the primary use of which allows the players (and GM!) to "tag" aspects of themselves, others, and locations to their benefit. For example, Harry Dresden could spend a Fate point to tag his "Chivalry is Not Dead, Dammit" aspect to add a bonus to a roll to protect or help a woman in distress. It's a two-way street, though so the GM could offer Harry a Fate point to get involved in a case that will bring a lot of trouble down on his head, because there's a woman being threatened (called a "compel") Harry's player can choose to accept the Fate point and follow his nature into trouble, or he can resist the compel by turning down the Fate point offered AND paying an extra point of his own. If you don't have any Fate points left, you're somewhat "tapped out," and you have to accept any compels until you have Fate points to spend again.

Every character has a certain "Fate refresh" number, which measures how many Fate points you get back after an appropriate resting point (usually between sessions). Here's the cool part: Supernatural powers decrease your Fate refresh. If you ever reach a negative number for your Fate point refresh, you cease to be a playable character, because you don't have Fate points anymore, and therefore can't resist "compels" against your negative nature. You no longer have power to choose, and therefore become a monster, acting only on nature, without those bothersome questions of "right and wrong" coming into play anymore.

So, as PCs, a Champion of God or a Wizard of the White Council may have a whole lot more supernatural power at their disposal, but with that comes a great deal of obligations, responsibilities, temptations, and other difficulties (you'll be a target for the bigger bad guys out there, because you're a threat) that restrict their ability to choose how to respond. A regular person can choose whether or not to get involved fighting supernatural baddies, but for a Knight of the Cross, that's a part of the job description, and trying to weasel out of them (more often than once or twice, obviously) means you'll probably end up losing your job and all it's supernatural perks. Mechanically, this is represented by the number of Fate points flying around. A pure mortal will have 10 or 12 Fate points to begin with, while a wizard or another powerful character will have 2 or 3. And believe me, a character with a high investment in what's going on (lots of relevant aspects to tag) and extra Fate points to spend can completely overturn the result of a conflict.

So, if you're following me so far, it seems like what we're looking for is a group of PCs with low supernatural talent but high Fate points. The PCs aren't a magical strike team, but a group of mostly normal people whose power to influence comes more from their personal investment and dedication than their actual capabilities.

Does that sound right? If any of that is confusing, let me know and I can clarify further.

That sounds exactly like what I'd like to play. Of course, I always like playing the weaker people in a world full of deadly threats.

I'm trying to decide where we should go at this point. Should we launch right into the City Creation, or is there some other stuff we need to outline first?

I guess the first step would be to figure out who is going to be involved in the game, so we can get them in on the ground floor. It seems to be pretty much a given that I'll be running the game, and that Tzuriel and Eruantien will be playing. Are there going to be any other players involved? I'd like to have at least one more.

It seems like the best way to run this game would be over Skype, as Play-by-Post would be a little clunky. I would like to record the sessions somehow and post them somewhere online, so that the rest of the Gamegrene community can follow them if they so please.

Tzuriel and I will probably be at the same physical location, Skyping out from the same computer. Eru, if you have someone from your gaming group that you think might be interested, point them towards this thread and see if they want to jump in. Four total, two at each end, would be a pretty decent arrangement.

In terms of the length of this experiment, I don't want to plan for some sort of long haul, year-spanning campaign. People have lives that interfere, and I imagine that organizing an Internet game is even harder than an offline one. Let's plan for the one session, and if it goes well, we can shoot for another.

To get a head start on city creation, I'm going to do some research on actual Irish cities, and see if there's a good match for what we have in mind.

I'm also quite fine with that style of play. Of course, this'll be interesting, since I still don't fully understand the FATE system. Oh well, no time like the present to read 2nd ed another five times!
As for recording, I do know you can record audio with Skype (as I've listened to podcasts that have done so) but I'm not sure if you can record video. I'll look into that, if you like. And I'll see if anyone from my group would like to join in. Though it'll be a little fiddly as we'll have to use my Macbook webcam, but I think it's manageable.

It's prolly a bad idea to try and record video, as just putting up the audio for "mass consumption" requires a lot of bandwidth and such. The video would be even worse than that.

As far as the FATE system, I'll be piggybacking on Lorthyne's knowledge for the first little while, too. We'll probably be ok, though.

It'll have to be a coastal city, if we're doing the vikings thing. I had an idea that maybe we should do a fight against Rome instead, though I don't think they ever tried to invade Ireland. An interesting concept might be that this is a city that finds itself at the center of a lot of battles throughout history, Romans, Vikings, English invasions, as well as strife at home, and that all these battles have coalesced into this spiritual warfare established by the pact a long time ago. Possibly the PCs are looking for a way to break the pact and end this spiritual warfare. Just some thoughts.

"An interesting concept might be that this is a city that finds itself at the center of a lot of battles throughout history, Romans, Vikings, English invasions, as well as strife at home, and that all these battles have coalesced into this spiritual warfare established by the pact a long time ago. Possibly the PCs are looking for a way to break the pact and end this spiritual warfare. Just some thoughts."

That's... really cool. I like it.

I've been looking at Belfast, Northern Ireland as a possible city. It's coastal and has some cool environs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant%27s_Ring , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavehill) that have TONS of potential as sites of supernatural import. And, it's where the RMS Titanic was built, which is also pretty sweet.

My knowledge about Ireland and Irish history is spotty at best, and so the setting and culture are probably going to be have much fiction as there is fact. Is that going to bother anyone? We could relocate if it will.

I like Ireland because of the cool mix of religious fervor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Anne%27s_Cathedral,_Belfast) and Gaelic fairy-tale folklore. I would think that a Dresden Files game set in Belfast would have powerful players from Faerie and both Protestant and Catholic religious orders. "The city's coat of arms shows a central shield, bearing a ship and a bell, flanked by a chained wolf (or wolfhound) on the left and a seahorse on the right." I think it would be cool to incorporate some elements from that, as well, perhaps in the form of werewolves, merfolk, or something similar.

How does everybody feel about Belfast? In the meantime, if everyone would go to http://www.dresdenfilesrpg.com/downloads and download the City and Character sheets, we can get started on City Creation. The first two pages of the pdf file are for character creation, and we'll be getting to those later. We'll start with the third page, the "City Sheet: High Level" and deal with the basics of the city. Once we decide on a city, we can move ahead, but I'd like for you guys to at least be somewhat familiar with the paperwork so you can be thinking of ideas.

We'll first be talking about the city-wide Themes and Threats. A theme is a statement that generally describes what sorts of things are happening in the city. "It could be something that the mortal population tells about themselves and their city, or it might be something that the supernatural denizens
talk about behind the scenes." (DFRPG - "Your Story" pg 30). "You're not safe in this town unless you know who to pay" or "The White Court has the politicians in their pocket, AND they're happy to see them" are examples of themes that would make things interesting. We'll want our themes to be dark, because we want some good stuff for our heroes to struggle against.

Threats are individuals, monsters, groups, or conditions that make or want to make life worse for the mortals in the city. The idea we have tossing around now of our city being a hub of physical and spiritual war would be a good threat, summarized as something like "People (and Things) bleed and die over this place". Other examples would be "A new warlock is trying to establish a stronghold here" or "Ghosts leave a stronger mark here, for some reason".

Each Theme and Threat (we'll have three total, probably two of one and one of the other) will play heavily into the feel of the game, and we'll derive Aspects from those themes that the PCs (and NPCs) can "tag" for greater effect.

Quick update on the player front, as it's late and I'll check out the PDFs later today. On my end, the only player that would've been interested declined and also offended me in the ensuing conversation, so we're not on speaking terms for a little bit. But that's okay. Anyways, I've no problem with a little historical inaccuracy, as my own knowledge of the Irish only goes to: they ate potatoes, they had a potato famine, causing many to flee to America and become workers, they hate the British, they still hate the British, and they have a terrorist group. So yeah, Belfast is cool with me.

Looking over Belfast and its history, I think it's perfect. I'd in particular like to explore the spiritual ramifications of all the sectarian violence in that area of Ireland over the last 30 years, especially since it plays so beautifully into everything we're looking to play here. I was thinking maybe our characters and their struggle relate directly to that conflict. Perhaps part of the compact is binding on humans, too, in that there must always be two sides fighting over the city, and part of our group conflict will be picking sides or attempting not to have one, etc. Wikipedia, the source of all wisdom, says Belfast is enjoying a period of prosperity at this time. Perhaps that's because of our intrepid roleplayers? When we don't keep things together, the violence spills over into the real world and the city explodes in blood, with factions killing, and new factions rising up in reaction to that, etc. I'd like to play characters with direct ties to sectarian violence that plagued Belfast for so long, particularly as we're now trying to stop that from occurring again. It sets up interesting character stuff and also makes it all personal. That's just some thoughts on that.

Some Theme ideas - Violence always bubbles just under the surface here.
-The city streets are stained with blood even as its people claw toward redemption.

I like "People (and Things) bleed and die over this place" for a threat. That's cool.

As far as your player, Eru, sorry about that. I might have someone who would be interested that we could use over here. That'd make you lonely over there, but we'll keep things interesting for you. :)

I'm a little wary of pushing too much into the violence issue. I think we should definitely involve it heavily in the city of Belfast and the game we're going for, but I don't want to have two of our three themes and threats be focused on that same issue. I like the way that your "Violence always bubbles just under the surface here" theme encapsulates the tension in the city, but I think we should pick either that as a theme OR "People (and Things) bleed and die over this place" as a threat, but not both. I'd like for there to be a little more going on than this one issue.

Each theme or threat has an aspect that's derived from it. I've been thinking that "Eternal Battleground" is a good aspect we can draw from either of these options. We'll also create "faces" for these themes and threats, people (usually NPCs) in the city that you could point to as being a major source of this problem. I think Belfast should be home to a House of White Court Vampires that feed on wrath, and that want to continually disrupt the peace because it makes it easier to prey on the mortal inhabitants. The head of this House could be the face for this theme/threat.

What are some other themes/threats we could include here? I'd like for there to be at least one that's entirely a mortal opinion, but spills over and affects the supernatural community too. Since we've been tossing around the idea of Belfast being this point of conflict that has been "the town that saved Ireland," what if we use something like "Belfast is Ireland's last best hope. And it's crumbling." I think that sort of encapsulates this idea of heavy pride that the locals have about being the "defending fortress," if you will, but that very pride has weakened the city, deluding them into thinking that Belfast is this nigh-invincible force, when it's actually very, very weak, and weakening every year.

I agree with your thoughts concerning doubling up similar themes and threats, etc.

I think we should stick with the threat as what it is, and go from there. As far as faces, how many should we have? I was thinking it'd be cool to at least have both a supernatural face and a mortal face for each of these conflicts.

Actually, politically, Belfast is in Northern Ireland, which is not part of Ireland, and continues to be a part of the UK, which is the source of the violence of the Troubles. This little bit from Wikipedia's Northern Ireland page is interesting -

"Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter ethno-political conflict — the Troubles — caused by divisions between nationalists, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, and unionists, who are predominantly Protestant. Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, while nationalists wish it to be politically reunited with the rest of Ireland. Since the signing of the "Good Friday Agreement" in 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.

Due to its unique history, the issue of the symbolism, name and description of Northern Ireland is complex, and similarly the issue of citizenship and identity. In general, Unionists consider themselves British and Nationalists see themselves as Irish, though these identities are not necessarily mutually exclusive."

I'd prefer the mortal theme to be a reflection of those two paragraphs, a fundamental tension within the city given birth and power by a deep confusion regarding the identity of its inhabitants. Something like, "The fate of Ireland, whatever it be, is decided here" perhaps, to reflect that this is the capital and largest population center of Northern Ireland, and that where the city goes, Northern Ireland goes, which could lead either to reintegrating with Ireland or staying with the UK, or even something radically different. I'm also thinking we might actually want to focus on having both themes be fundamentally mortal, and the threat give birth to the supernatural elements of the city. I find the threat to represent something ancient, a way of being that has always been for whatever reason, whereas the themes feel changeable to me, dependent upon the mortals perspective on the threat. I think for Belfast, the supernatural and mundane elements of the city should be tightly woven together, moreso than is normal, almost indistinguishable. That being said, I feel like a possible second theme could be "This is a place of decision, wherein we find out who we really are." Or something like that.

A word of advice here - the Wikipedia article on The Troubles is well worth a read if you haven't already done so.


Whilst it is true that British armed forces carried out some inexcusable acts in the early days of the troubles that fueled an escalation of the violence, I would caution against seeing the situation in Northern Ireland as purely an 'Irish vs British' conflict, with one side being the good guys and the other the bad guys. It's a lot more messy and tangled than that. For starters, there are many residents of Northern Ireland who regard themselves as British. Northern Ireland was formed in 1921 when its own regional parliament, elected through a democratic process, decided not to join the newly created Irish Free State but remain part of the U.K. - the key issue on which the election was fought.

There is not a 'terrorist group', there are (or were) terrorist groups (plural) on both sides of the fence - republicans and loyalists - and the police and army were there to try to stop both sides from murdering each other.

@ Tzuriel:

There should be a minimum of one face per theme or threat, but there can be as many as we want for an individual threat. If you look at the "City Sheet" forms I linked about, we start with the "High Level" details for city creation: themes and threats (with their respective aspects and faces) and the Balance of Power in the city, both supernatural and mundane. From there, we'll create Locations within the city (at least 9), each with its own theme or threat, aspect, and face. The side result of making that many locations will be the creation of a variety of NPCs and organizations to populate our city. We'll then flesh out all of the faces we've created, establishing their high concepts and personal motivations. After that, we'll make PCs, and determine how they fit into the city.

I'm thinking that it will be easiest for everyone to follow if they print out those sheets and fill them in as we go along. Right now we have one threat established: "People (and Things) bleed and die over this place," with some ideas about aspects and faces for it. The other two themes/threats have yet to be established.

@ Gherkin:

I've never really been one to look at political conflicts as "Good vs. Evil," but more like "Red vs. Blue." Generally speaking, people fight and kill over things far less important than morality. In any real-world conflict, there are different sides, different factions, but usually one side is not any more good or evil than the other.

I'm feeling this game is going to be more about the idea of eternal conflict and the quest for peace than it will be about Faction 1 triumphing over Faction 2. In fact, that's what bubbles out of this threat we've established: There's a supernatural force that's pushing people towards physical conflict. The justifications that people craft in their minds really aren't important except on the individual level, because they're just justifications, and not actual causes of the fighting.

That being said, thanks for the caution and input.

@ gherkin

As Lorthyne said, thanks for the caution. I'm sorry if I came across as any way suggesting one side is right and the other wrong, as that was not my intent. I merely wished to establish the conflict that'd defined the recent history of the city. Like Lorthyne, I don't really believe in pure good vs. evil conflicts, and certainly don't find them all that interesting. What fascinates me are the nitty gritty complications and details at the center of realistic conflicts, and that's exactly what I'm going for here. It's not Irish vs. British, but politically Irish vs. politically British, with plenty of pluses and negatives on both sides. Even with that, there really isn't just two sides. Like all real-world conflicts, it's a lot more complicated than that.

My only question so far is how does this link back into the whole roleplaying thing? This central concept could either become that burdensome thing you put into place at the beginning you have to lug around for the rest of the time, or it could be the central concept that elevates the whole game above the typical for its peers. Of course, we want the latter.

Here's a thought. Maybe we should do a doubling up kind of thing here - we roleplay as roleplayers who are roleplaying a game set in their city. We would use this city as their outlooks on their city and what they created to play in and explore, with their individual characters. It's getting a little close to LARP for my taste, but the idea would be that whenever we come to the table, we take on their persona (we wouldn't have to do accents) and act as them playing their characters for this game. This could bring through the theme of saving the world through something mundane and ignored in that they don't physically prevent the death of their city, but thematically explore its many problems through out the game. This would be less a physical salvation than a spiritual one for the players, working through their personal issues and tragedies through the game, coming out, hopefully, the other end fully developed people, people who've successfully navigated the problems that brought them to the table in the first place. What do you think? It's ambitious, but I actually like it quite a bit. Even if we don't use it here, it'd be fun to try it somewhere else, perhaps even develop a system for it.

Tzuriel : "Here's a thought. Maybe we should do a doubling up kind of thing here - we roleplay as roleplayers who are roleplaying a game set in their city."

I have to say, I'm not a fan of that idea. I think it over-complicates the issue, and makes it so we have to deal with three different layers of reality simultaneously: Out of Game, In-Game Out of Game, and In-Game In-Game, which would be difficult to handle, to say the least. Christopher Nolan's Inception may be able to handle that many layers and more, but he also has the advantage of not having to worry about his actors being confused as to which layer they're on: they have a script.

The question is about what we're trying to accomplish in this game. If we're sticking with the initial concept of "a group of normal, wildly different people drawn together by their common love for a hobby, object, or other activity that soon learn that the threads of the universe are only held together by this simple, mundane behavior that is overlooked by the general populace. Fighting against insurmountable odds [they] only seem to delay the inevitable," than the LARP stuff and the Ireland/Britain conflict are story elements that we use to evoke the feel we're going for, rather than being the basis for the game.

If we're spiraling outward into a game about how people resolve their personal issues caused by the conflicts around them through playing a game that explores those conflicts, that is a entirely different playing field. A playing field that would require the leaving behind of much of what we have already discussed.

"My only question so far is how does this [unless I misunderstand, the Ireland vs Britain conflict] link back into the whole roleplaying thing? This central concept could either become that burdensome thing you put into place at the beginning you have to lug around for the rest of the time, or it could be the central concept that elevates the whole game above the typical for its peers. Of course, we want the latter."

I don't really see the playing of role-players in a role-playing game being THE central concept, but a story element that will help create the feel we're going for. The choice that the mundane, seemingly insignificant activity that holds vast importance for the PCs is role-playing was mostly based on the fact that role-playing is a mundane, seemingly-insignificant activity that holds vast importance for the players. The discussion of that importance was what sparked this whole idea, if you remember.

Well, like I said, I was just throwing the idea out. I would like to explore it further with something else though, so I'll have to let it gestate in my head for a little while.

Concerning the "central concept":
I must not have been very clear (I'm usually not) because I believe you misunderstood what I was saying here. I was talking about the Ireland Britain thing (though it's more Irish who wish to be politically part of Ireland and Irish who wish to be politically part of Britain), but also about everything else we'd come up with. Further, the central concept was not my wild idea, but more what we started out with - a bunch of people saving the world through a hobby. I just want to keep pulling us back to that even as we develop the world. For instance, how is LARPing useful or interesting to a bunch of white court vampires? Even were they to take active interest in it, how would we fight these beings? In many ways, I want to keep the mundane elements of the group as intact as possible, but it's difficult to see how we can balance running around killing monsters with LARPing. That's what I was getting at. I want the beginning concept to remain intact throughout the creation and playing process because it's the tenuous thread that links us all together here, the representation of our celebration of a hobby that could very well be dying, but we'll keep on playing regardless. My point is that we have to either bear out the beginning idea and keep it intact, or discard it entirely and go for something more symbolic of our love of roleplaying, like the eternal war described in Hunter: the Vigil or something similar. I would prefer keeping the beginning concept and adhering to that. The quirkiness of the idea, plus it's great potential for interesting, obtuse pathos, is what draws me towards this game. So that's what I was getting at.

The political stuff is exactly story elements used for mood and such. But the LARP stuff is the core concept. You can't really roleplay away the political stuff, but the LARP is what keeps our world from crumbling. I feel we should try to make sure everything is tied to that.

Lorthyne - "If we're spiraling outward into a game about how people resolve their personal issues caused by the conflicts around them through playing a game that explores those conflicts, that is a entirely different playing field. A playing field that would require the leaving behind of much of what we have already discussed."

I would actually like to explore this in addition to all the other stuff. This would, unlike the LARP, not be the core concept, but it would be an interesting, compelling emotional and thematic through line running under the main story elements. Just character stuff.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Hopefully I was clearer this time. Anybody wanna say anything besides me and Lorthyne? Haven't heard from you in a while, Eru...

Heh, sorry. I'm not dead, but I've been running a few games several times a week so I've been choked on time. Anyways.

I think perhaps we should establish a general idea of how our characters are going to be. It seems our problem at the moment is determining the core theme, and sometimes when I have trouble, I'll make some characters, just to see where my subconscious is going. Then something in the world I'm trying to set becomes real, and I can get a better grip on what I want the theme and subsequently the world/plot to be. I dunno. Just my two cents, as it seems we're going to be going at the thematic part for a bit.

Haha, Tzuriel, I had thought at first that you were referring to the political conflict, and then on a reread decided that I better understood what you were trying to say. Joke's on me, I guess.

I think I get what you're saying now. I'm guessing that I need to explain myself a little more clearly, too.

I want to keep the beginning concept also. I definitely want to keep the mundane elements intact, as well. I thinking we might be looking at this idea from different perspectives, too. I was looking at the player characters as a mix of pure mortals and humans with really minor supernatural talents (enough for the PCs to be clued-in to the supernatural, but not enough to give them any major edge). The compelling part of the story for me was that these mortals are in way over their heads, dealing with supernatural entities that should be able to crush them easily, but they somehow come out on top most of the time.

I initially looked at the LARP as a sort of cover story, a reason to gather mortals together ready for a fight. Thinking about it now, I like the idea that the LARP was something that happened because humans had a subconscious draw to armed warfare in this location. They just feel that they're supposed to come and fight at this place every year, but they don't really understand why. The PCs would be the dedicated LARPers that figured out what was really at stake, mostly because of their consistent attendance year after year, but also because of their supernatural sensitivity. What do you guys think about that?

In terms of why the White Court would be involved, I made that jump in my head without really explaining the details. It made sense to me that White Court vampires that feed on wrath would have an interest in this LARP, because if the LARPers "win" the battles there, it prevents the wrathful, warlike spirits, spectres, and ghosts from being unleashed on the city. When the spirits get loose, they stir up feelings of animosity, conflict, and rage in the humans there, which makes for easier feeding for the vamps (and also goes to explain the long history of violence in the area).

There are some story details that help explain why it all makes sense, too. White Court vampires are pretty scary in a fight compared to your average human, but next to the Red and Black Courts, they're pretty wimpy. They've managed to stick around and become a powerful presence in the world through their wits and intellect, rather than their sheer supernatural powers (remember, they're psychic vampires). As a result, they've developed this mentality that true strength and power is derived from your ability to manipulate circumstances and people to your will(especially if the manipulated don't know they're doing exactly what the White Courters want), rather than from direct involvement. The more indirect and untraceable, the more subtle comments, manipulation, and cats-paws, the better. In fact, something as direct as stomping into a place to murder your enemies (or even hiring someone else to do just that) would be seen as a huge sign of weakness in the White Court community, which would almost certainly lead to attempts to shift the balance of power from several different members of the White Court. For the White Court, getting it done quietly is far more important than getting it done. It makes sense to me that the White Court would work through different channels to try to force a death to the LARP through slow decay, rather than a single forceful blow, especially since it's regular humans involved. If you can't take out regular humans through subtlety, you must be weak indeed.

I also have this idea of an NPC (or PC, if one of you guys wants to grab this up) ally that's a White Court virgin. WCV are born as almost entirely human, and don't become full vampires until they feed on someone for the first time. The first feed is always lethal to the human involves, and it irreversibly changes the predator into a full-blown WCV. There is an escape clause, however. If a White Court virgin performs a powerful, selfless act of the positive emotion opposite to the negative one they would feed on (True Love in the case of lust vamps, True Courage in the case of fear, True Hope for despair, and True Peace for wrath), they are freed from their vampiric nature and become pure mortals. A White Court virgin who knows the ins and outs of how his family operates and is seeking to establish True Peace in Belfast could help stymie their efforts a lot.

That was my thinking, anyway, but if that doesn't appeal to you guys, we can rethink things.

And Eru, if we want to move ahead to character creation and come back to city creation later, I'm totally cool with that.

Actually, I think that works very well. It covers most of our desired situations, and it's pretty interesting. I'm all for it.

This all sounds great to me, so far. I was thinking that the PCs stumbled upon the truth of their LARP and kind of start from there. Also, I think the slow decay of the LARP should be both the evil vampires as well as just natural processes, that fellow LARPers are getting old, moving away, etc., and it's difficult, if not impossible, to find new people. I want us as PCs to grapple with the inevitable that comes with natural population movements, in addition to supernatural problems.

As far as the virgin, I'd prefer a human party, but that kind of NPC would be cool, especially to play as an insider into our enemies.

That's all I've really got to say right here. Where does everybody think we should continue from? City or characters?

City or characters? Hmmm.

Creating the city usually comes first, because you then have material to draw from to create characters. That being said, we seem to have been running around in circles for a while attempting city creation, so it may be better to move on to character creation and come back to the city later.

Either way is fine with me.

I think for now it is enough to know that we're probably going to do it in Belfast, and that's it's probably going to be in Ireland. With these two thoughts in mind, I think we can make some characters.
So how do we want to do it? Will we make it our first Skype video meeting? Aside from that, we could make it an IM chat creation, as I am admittedly still a little foggy on FATE character creation and forum posting would be very awkward.

I think we should make it our first skype to finish all this creation stuff up and then play from there.

Skype sounds good, although I have to admit that while I'm familiar with the theory, I've never actually used Skype.

Tzuriel and I are in the Mountain time zone in the US, so we'll just have to coordinate times between here and wherever you are, Eru. When works for you, Eru? I'm pretty flexible right now.

I'm in the Eastern time zone U.S. for reference. I'm pretty flexible right now as well, as I've still 15 days 'fore the whole college experience thing. I'm going to throw out the tentative date of Thursday as a first meeting? After that I suppose we can play it by ear.

Can't do Thursday since I'm working that day. We'll have to get back with each other on good days, and figure out how to use Skype, cause I've never used it either lol


Make sure you have a computer with speakers and a mic, or a headset. Webcam optional.
Download from http://www.skype.com
Create Your Accounts
Exchange your account names via this forum or email
Use the Add Contact facility and search for each other
Call each other
If you want to hold a three way discussion you'll need to set up a conference call but it sounds like 2 of you are in one place so I guess it will be 1-to-1 calling

Good luck!

More reference: Search either cverneo (I think that's my username) or Matt Lo (My actual name, now on Gamegrene! Woot.)

Well, Friday's a no-go for me this week. Actually, Saturday's off for me too this week, as I'm doing financial work for college. Sunday I'm free, and the next week I should be good, excluding Wednesdays.

Well, on August 18th the great college experience will be happening, but I'll still be more or less available. And I'm pretty much available every day this week 'cept Friday and Saturday. Possibly Thursday, but we'll see how that goes.