29 August 2006

Past Campaigns, Part the Fifth

All this talk about Cyberpunk has me hungry to run and/or play the damn game. Unfortunately, the rigors of Real Life (tm) have me at a disadvantage. Perhaps soon I will be able to reconnect with my role-playing roots in a more intimate fashion. As it is, there are other games I need to talk about, other characters and storylines to dredge up.

I had marginal interest in Vampire: The Masquerade after its initial (first edition) release. The AD&D group I'd been playing with (you know, the big one) was on its last legs. Roughly half of the players went one way (sticking with AD&D), and the other half went the other (switching to Vampire). There were a lot of political reasons for the group's break-up, not to mention some personality conflicts. I never got involved overmuch; I was more of a neutral bystander, and by that time I'd had enough of straight fantasy to last me a few years.

The group that chose to play Vampire consisted of good old Josh (you'll remember him as my friend Will's older brother), Josh's girlfriend, Louis, and a few others (including my friend CJ and his future wife). They really dug Vampire, and they played it very close to how they saw Anne Rice's Lestat books. I was involved in two instances before I took my leave of the group; my first as a Tremere scholar from England, followed by a Toreador duelist (who was eventually transformed into an Immortal, like those in the Highlander movies, through our own [very simple] house rules).

Let me explain that Josh, who ran these games, started them in rough historical version of the 15th century (as far as I can fathom). His plan was to start the game off at that point, and eventually work the characters into the modern day (as elders, I presume). My participation didn't make it that far, so I don't know how successful it was. Simply put, I got tired of Vampire pretty quickly, and ducked out of the group. I don't really know why I tired of it. Maybe it's because it was the hot title at the time, and I had to be some kind of teenage nonconformist. More likely, though, was that my involvement with Grant's GURPS group (and the Bad Streets campaign) kept me occupied.

I eventually came to terms with Vampire, after the release of the 2nd Edition. I even bought the core book and the Player's Guide, dabbling with the rules a little bit. Despite my initial unhappiness with the game, I turned into a big fan after a while. I still considered some of the themes inherent in the game to be juvenile, specifically the "Peter Pan/Lost Boys" syndrome that was so common in the games I'd seen. There was some true potential, both thematically and mechanically, with the game.

One thing that really sucked me in (heh, heh) to the Vampire RPG was the Vampire CCG, Jyhad (which was eventually renamed Vampire: The Eternal Struggle). I absolutely loved that card game, and I got pretty good at it. I even scored third place in a V:tES tournament up at DunDraCon in San Ramone in 1998, and I'm not generally competetive. I haven't played the CCG in years (not since WW got the rights back from WotC), so most of my strategies (such as using Dragon's Breath Rounds with a Zip Gun) are like as not against the rules these days.

Through a series of savvy trades, I manage to amass quite a collection of White Wolf books, spanning from V:tM, Werewolf, Mage, Wraith, to several other titles in-between. To this day, the only stack of books in my apartment that even begins to rival my White Wolf stack is my D&D v3+ stack. Go reckon, but those White Wolf boys were busy bees! And the books were relatively economical, too.

Though I did run a few short-lived Vampire: The Masquerade games, I didn't see much success in running long-term campaigns until Vampire: The Dark Ages was released. To this day, it's probably my favorite release for the series (and much, much better than the later Dark Ages: Vampire; what a difference an edition makes). I started a small campaign, starring my wife as a Toreador architect, and Grant as a Gangrel ex-crusader. The themes of the game involved love, mortality, politics; it was a lot of fun. As the game continued, more players became involved. Notably, my good friend CS. The game did end, but I eventually revisited it with a new group of players some years later, exploring the struggles between Clan Tremere and the Tzimisce in Eastern Europe.

Besides Dark Ages, I also ran a successful (IMO) Vampire game set in San Francisco during the Roaring Twenties. The PCs were all Caitiff. Apart, they were scorned, but together in one group, they were a pretty influential power bloc in 'Frisco. The game centered on the efforts of the Camarilla, the Sabbat, and the Anarchs in the city trying to bring the PCs to their way of thinking, thereby tipping the balance (population-wise) in their favor. It was a good group of players, too, IIRC.

So, that's that. More later, I reckon. I'll try to touch on some other White Wolf titles, such as Werewolf and Wraith. Until then...

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