[V5] Oblivion Discipline: Full Rewrite (and another hack)

Referring back to the previous post for context: Oblivion has some problems as a Discipline, I’ve attacked it in various different ways, this is probably the most developed. To ensure compliance with the Dark Pack guidelines I won’t be providing full writeups for the actual powers, only page references to Chicago by Night and Cults of the Blood Gods. I’ll add, in italics, any additional rules or changes to those powers as I go along.

It’s only fair, before you hit the wall of text, to say that it’s a lot simpler to just make The Binding Fetter the prerequisite power for all the “ghost path” Ceremonies (the ones with ‘Spirit’ in their name), Ashes to Ashes the prerequisite power for all the “zombie path” Ceremonies (the ones with statblocks for that which is summoned included), and Where The Shroud Thins for Split the Shroud and Ex Nihilo. That’s a really tidy way of doing it and I sort of wish I’d thought of that instead of having someone suggest it on Discord and me going “well, that’s a lot of my brain tape wasted.”

But the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, and I’m still quite pleased with what I did here, so: let’s begin.

Continue reading “[V5] Oblivion Discipline: Full Rewrite (and another hack)”

[V5] Oblivion Discipline, Bloat and Monobuild: a Take, and some House Rules

Ah, Oblivion. A controversial choice on the part of Onyx Path Publishing, and it really is their baby since it’s been laid out in the two books they’ve produced for V5.

Take the Obtenebration of the Lasombra and the Necromancy of the Giovanni (and the Mortis of the Cappadocians, the Thanatosis of the Samedi, the Nihilistics of the Nagaraja… Vampire necromancy is a right mess, whether you treat it as separate paths of one big thing or an array of similar-but-different Disciplines).

Tie together the obvious commonalities – Kiasyd used to have both! The Abyss, the bad place where the shadows are alive, is correspondent to Oblivion, the bad place that turns wraiths into spectres and defines that whole game line! Something to do with Werewolves, the Labyrinth, the Wyrm, honestly I’m not much of a Werewolf person but it’s there! Lasombra, the Antediluvian, is not as dead as everyone said he was! (spoiler warning for a book that came out in 2005 and has been Wiki-synopsised to death, I suppose. honestly, “spoilers” in an RPG book, who’d have… anyway.)

Then, think like Dawkins – a WoD superfan who’s owned more or less every Vampire book there is to own and actually remembers them all – and decide what if this was all coming from the same place? There’s something at the very bottom of the World of Darkness’ cosmology, it has something to do with ghosts and shadows and spiritually corrosive world poisoning nastiness, it’s always hungry and one day it might devour the world.

It makes sense. Sorry, haters, but from a worldbuilding point of view there’s enough there. From a mechanical point of view… eeeh. Good and bad. It’s great that the Hecata (as they now are) and the Lasombra have a single Discipline in common (much like how Protean has been used to cover the similar-enough remits of the Gangrel, Tzimisce and Followers Ministry of Set), and are otherwise very different in their spreads. (Giovanni and Lasombra having functionally the same spread outside their signature never sat well with me, really.)

However, Oblivion itself has suffered slightly from being developed across two books, by a team who I think might not have been sure they were going to do the second one when the first one was being worked on. As a result, in an age of streamlining Disciplines, eliminating redundancy, and controlling bloat, Oblivion has ended up with four powers per level where most Disciplines only get two, and the understandable desire to gatekeep “necromancy” behind the Ceremony system has led to a weird situation where this huge and flexible discipline has expensive monobuilds.

Continue reading “[V5] Oblivion Discipline, Bloat and Monobuild: a Take, and some House Rules”

[V:tR] Vampire: the Requiem (Second Edition) – Readthrough

So I’ve only actually played VtR once, with randoms, which is not optimal for me (I like to RPG with people who already know and like each other out of game), and I only owned 1e, so I never really gave the current rulebook a proper combing over from an “I want to run this” point of view.

I also spent last weekend laid up with some sort of terrible gut acid experience, so I thought it high time to address this absence.

I don’t want to make too many comparisons to Vampire: the Masquerade because I’m tired of Requiem only being discussed in that context: “is it better?” comes up every couple of weeks on the White Wolf RPG subreddit and has done for years and I’m tired. I want to talk about Requiem on its own merits where I can. That said, I cannot avoid being an old hand who knew VtM first and has been playing V5 for two years: I’m bound to evaluate what I discover in terms of what I already know.

Images are from the book in question, sourced via the Storytellers’ Vault, spirit of fair use, purely for illustrative/visual handhold purposes.

Continue reading “[V:tR] Vampire: the Requiem (Second Edition) – Readthrough”

[V:tM] Baby’s First Chronicle: Top Tips for Beginner Storytellers

To begin with: don’t be afraid. Your first game is going to be “wrong” in some sense. So is your second. I’ve run six chronicles over the last twenty years, some of them running for years on end, and I still get to the end of some sessions and think “well, that could’ve gone better” or have to write off a chronicle because of something we didn’t spot early on.

You’ll make rules calls that don’t work when you think about them afterwards. You’ll not be able to land the same voice for that SPC two scenes on the trot, never mind for the whole chronicle. You’ll forget who the Ventrue Justicar was “canonically” established to be in Buttfuck (MI) By Night (1994). None of that matters. One time I forgot that the Bastille was, you know, no longer a place that existed and that was the point of Bastille Day, in a session called ‘Bastille Day’. I promise that nine times out of ten you can pause for the laughter to stop, shrug, say “my World of Darkness, my rules” and crack on.

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[VtM] On Persistent Worlds, and Gehenna

The last few years have been… difficult, if you’re a fan of the Vampire. I won’t go over all the controversies and nonsense here, because some muck is better left unraked. Suffice to say that the launch of V5 was troubled, and the core game continues to soldier on even though – if community created content is anything to go by – the long term player base doesn’t really want what it’s about.

As a returning player I actually quite like it.

I’ve spent more time with Vampire in its various forms than any other game system. I dabble, here and there, for curiosity’s sake or because someone really wants to play such-and-such-another-thing, but I come back to Requiem as a platonic “really good vampire game” and Masquerade as a realistic “good enough vampire game that people are more likely to play.”

Crucially, Masquerade is the only game to which I’ve come back often enough that I have an internally consistent and continuous game-world of my own. Something that exists along the framework established by Justin Achilli et al in Revised edition, as a starting point, but steps back from the inane grand-scale spectacle (we do spectacle, where I’m from, but it’s comparatively low key next to whatever the hell the Week of Nightmares is supposed to be or however it’s supposed to work at table), and throws out a lot of the metaplot while remaining similar enough that it can be hung off the same game-mechanical hooks.

In 2004, a rash of prophetic dreams (a man and a woman in the desert before dawn; she takes his confession and leaves him to greet the sun) and the rising of the Red Star initiated the Winnowing, a process in which the first seven generations of vampires all died, one generation a year. (A few generations might have been fudged, here and there, if I happen to like the character and think it was a bit daft that they were sixth generation because of daft literalist interpretations of the source material, ahem hem Bloodlines fandom.)

There were, however, a couple of weird exceptions; the Harbingers of Ashur who, unbeknownst to anyone outside their insane revenge cult (Lilith worshippers hanging out in the afterlife with four captive really old vampires in boxes), haven’t been true vampires for centuries, and the original coven of Tremere, who – as false vampires who weren’t Embraced at all – seemed to dodge a bullet. At least, they did until the players in my Gehenna game killed Tremere himself to stop him winning the conflict formerly known as Jyhad all by himself.

By 2009, visible princes, prisci and other big knobs were starting to die, and the major sects became increasingly unhinged, especially as the false Regent had “her” cover blown by the simple fact of her survival, and the Sabbat ran wild and collapsed.By 2012, it was clear that this had been Gehenna, and it was over; not with a bang nor a whimper but a slow death in the dark. Only the Bahari really have a clue why, and they’re not telling. They just smirk, and suggest the enquirer work on their interpretation of dreams.

Everything since then has been a scramble to find the new status quo, with the eighth and ninth generations inheriting broken thrones, and thinbloods as a spreading and despised underclass, as per. There may be some kind of connection between Ashefinders and Ashur, or it may just be homonymic convergence.

Everything but the last paragraph was already laid in before V5, as a consequence of prior games followed through. The Gehenna material is from my Victorian Age game that ran from 2002 to 2004 weekly, and wrapped up with a Final Nights timeskip in the summer of 2005. The Bahari plot thread was planted in Constantinople, Not Istanbul. (I think that was 2011-2018? why did I delete my blog? I’ve lost all sense of the recent past now… oh, that’s right, I was having an awful time and didn’t want to remember!) The collapse of the Sabbat is honestly implicit in every short-run Sabbat game I’ve ever tried to run. The outcome is the status quo for Glasgow By Night, which I started running in 2020 and is currently on hiatus while I pranny about being a player in Slaughterhouse Three and wonder if I’m going to get the whole band back together.

I think about this because, long ago, I was gently chided for flittering and fluttering between game systems and settings – what depth and growth and creative maturity there is in RPGs comes from settling down and sustaining in one place. On reflection, I think that’s happened for me with V:tM. It’s the one game I can point at and say yes, I remember how I ran this at seventeen and I am not running it like that now (although I’m still a total magpie when it comes to SPC concepts and names – I always tell people I’m talented, not creative, I just pinch bits from everything I like and shake them through the game setting), but the events from those games when I was seventeen are still in my personal “canon” – eroded by time and revised by increasing standards, but not unhappened, nor abandoned.