Tag Archives: Spotlight on Antagonists

Back in the World of Darkness

I keep trying to get out, White Wolf,  you vixen, but you just keep pulling me right back in . . .
I keep trying to get out, White Wolf, you vixen, but you just keep pulling me right back in . . .

I don’t know how well you follow Old World of Darkness publication information, dear reader, but I can tell you that Drive Thru RPG has been doing some pretty amazing work making old White Wolf books available to the general public.  Click on the link and give them a view if you’re at all interested in older books of any genre, or small, no-name publishers that have some pretty great merchandise just waiting to be discovered. Anyway, if you go to the link, you’ll find a 20th anniversary edition of Mage, The Ascension, which I will be purchasing as soon as I can convince my wife that I need it to live.

I only bring this up, because the book I received as a gift from my wonderful wife on my birthday last year was the 20th Anniversary edition of Werewolf, The Apocalypse.  And ever since then, I’ve been dying to run it, but with so much going on, the baby, other existing games that needed to be finished, and my place in the running schedule of who will GM next, I have yet to get the chance to use that magnificent, full-color, quadrabizillion page tome to the betterment of myself and all of my friends!

Well that is no longer the case! My turn in the old rotation is coming back around fast, and I have quite a lot of work to do!  As an experimental post, I thought I’d let you in on my process . . . the things I do to get a game ready to go for my group.  I can’t go into too much detail about the actual story, because my players read this blog, but I can tell you about . . .

World-building!
World-building!

So first, a word about building the old world of darkness into something that’s still relevant today.  Luckily, the new 20th anniversary edition has actually added a fair amount of content to help with this, but if you’re not familiar with the setting . . . well, it’s not called “The Apocalypse”  for nothing.  If you re familiar, then you’ll likely remember that the great bloodbath in defense of the Wyld was supposed to take place in . . . you guessed it, the year 2000.  Obviously, it never happened, so they had to do a little ret-conning to fix the problems present in playing fifteen years into a world that has not been apocolypsed.  The themes of Werewolf were always a kinda “save the cheerleader, save the world” deal, except instead of the cheerleader, it was Gaia, and instead of the world as it is, it was the world before the three competing deities went mad and fell out of balance.  The setting itself was a reaction to growing fears in the 90’s that the environment was on its way down fast and hard, and that if we didn’t change something quickly, then we were going to choke on our own befoulment before the changing of the millennium.  Especially since the main antagonists were part of a corporation that looked fine on the surface, but was actively seeking to destroy the world behind the scenes, the setting made for some awesome, desperate stories about downtrodden, alienated heroes fighting against overwhelming odds to save humankind from itself . . .

At least, that’s what I think now that I’m an adult.  At the time, it was probably more like, “I get to be a 14 foot tall murder machine? Awesome!”

How, then, do you make the story relevant in a time when the population is much more conscious of the importance of preserving our environment?  My idea is fairly simple.  If the antagonist has gone to ground, then I’m going to bring the focus on the characters themselves, because mostly, Werewolf was always a story about growing up, and all those terrifying changes that happen as one gets older, only in this world, those changes are very much personified in the player character’s sometimes monstrous abilities.  I’m going to attempt to make the game more about what my characters are going through, and less about the epic struggle to defend the world against Pentex.  And to do that, I have to actually do the one thing we always ignored in all the old White Wolf games we played; run the prelude to the story my characters will eventually play.

That's a metaphorical forest fire.  It's really your hormones  that are trying to kill you . . .
That’s a metaphorical forest fire. It’s really your hormones that are trying to kill you . . .

To do this, I will be starting my players as vanilla humans . . . or wolves, or metis, depending on their preference . . . you get the idea.  They will not have auspice gifts (the ones granted from the phase of the moon they were born under), nor will they have tribe gifts (the ones granted by the werewolf tribe that eventually accepts them into their midst), but they will have the ability to turn into a 14 foot tall killing machine lurking just beneath the surface . . . they just won’t know what it is.  I’m basically going to have them create basic humans, and play through that first dramatic event that forces them to make the change, and instead of making it all about saving mother earth, I’m going to make it about saving themselves.  I don’t know how it’ll work out, but I do know that if I don’t do something with my last 100 dollar book, there is no way in hell my wife will ever let me get the next one!  She stands to benefit . . . she’s one of my players!

Anyway, one way or the other, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on starting a new game.  If I get positive feedback on this post, I might continue on the vein of how I write my games, so if you liked the entry, please click like, leave a comment, reblog or share this post on your media . . . literally anything to let me know you enjoyed what you read!  Otherwise, it’s back to the Borderkeep, to talk about some more traditional (at least, for this blog) topics.  Check out my partner blog, Tales from the Borderkeep, and as always, don’t fall for the kobold pit trap!

Secret Cults: Spotlight on Antagonists

Sorry about the late post, againI’ve been trying to balance being a new dad with grades due at the end of the nine weeks, and life has been extra . . . Well, just extra lately!

So, my last post was about recurring villains, one of my favorite topics, and one of the most challenging to include in a game. This week, I thought I would explore one of the easiest ways recurring villains into your game.

“This? It’s a . . . doll for my son?”

Last Sun Day, before the good towns people of Pracola, better known as the Borderkeep, had open mass at the temple to Apollo, a few townspeople went missing . . . At first, it was easy to explain away, as the festivities on the night before Sun Day, The Night of Moon and Stars, was unusually . . . Festive this year. But then the first body surfaced, and lately, neighbors have been locking up earlier and earlier. People who have know each other for decades are turning with shadowed faces toward their own domains, sparing not a single cup of sugar for their allies on the border. They don’t dare speak it aloud, but in the warm fires of the bar, bolstered by spirits and ale, they might whisper: The Cult of Everlasting Night.

Secret cults provide a unique experience for your players in that, along with a supply of potentially powerful villains, they add a sense of intrigue and suspense to your game. Old lady Marth wasn’t at feast day last week’s end . . . Was she simply baking her famous Sun Day cookies, or was there something more nefarious afoot? Goody Dellah was seen at the outskirts of town, clutching a strangely shaped bundle under her thin arm . . . The lamb for the feast day veal pies, or sacrificial daggers?

“She was helping me milk the cows, honestly. You people fret too much.”

When a mysterious force begins taking hold of a small town on the edge of everything, everyone is suspect. Your players will probably begin by looking into the fringe element in town . . . The people who never quite fit in are, after all, usually have the exact personality type that is often preyed upon by charismatic cult leaders.  That might be true in the real world, although even here, without the aid of dark magics and darker gods, events are never so clean-cut, in your fantasy world, you can make your players work a little harder. Create suspicion around several characters, and make the least likely the most devoted of the cult followers. Remember that secret cults have to stay secret by their very nature, and are often led by wickedly intellegent people, so why not make their modus operandi equally intelligent? Perhaps they work in a system of cells, designed so that each one has just enough member to enact rights designed to grant them boons for the low price of a sacrifice or two, but no two cells know of anyone else in their group. Maybe only the leader and his or her lieutenants are the only ones with everyone’s identity . . . Everyone else always meets with hoods on, and no one can guess who their fellow cult member is.

“I hereby call this meeting in order to enact the right of the blue pill . . .”
“. . . Karen?”

Your players should have the feeling that literally anyone could be a cult member. Perhaps float a rumor that the lord of the keep himself is at the dark heart of this plague on Pracola. Make them shadow members of the community, and build the suspense by making it really seem like the person they’re following is one of the cultists, only to reveal, at the last-minute, that they have a perfectly good reason for being out in the dead of night under the full moon. If you’re really adventurous, have them try to infiltrate the cult, which can be as tense or as fun as you want it to be, especially if the first group of cultists they manage to apprehend are a bunch of morons, made patsies by the real powers in the Borderkeep!

I hope you enjoyed my treatise on the nature of putting cults in your game! I certainly enjoyed writing it! Head over to Tales from the Borderkeep to check out some originally fiction based on some of our games, and as always, don’t fall for the old kobold pit trap!