…And Then He Punched the Glass
In January I started a new Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 20th Anniversary rules set. All of my players were excited because this would be the first chronicle that I had run since February of last year. We’d played a few other games in between, but most of my players prefer the Old World of Darkness system and setting.
|Baltimore Skyline at Night|
Since I returned to running Vampire the Masquerade, I made the decision to set all of my games in Baltimore because it’s a midsized city with a big enough population to support a fully functioning Camarilla city with a Prince, Primogen Council and a few other positions. Baltimore however is not so big that the players or I would get lost in an overwhelming number of NPCs. Most importantly, none of my players are familiar with Baltimore, so they are less likely to argue about little details.
My version of Baltimore has a very young population of vampires. Again, this was chosen to make it easier for players to relate to the NPCs. This is true for both the actual age of the Vampires, all were born in the 20th Century and their generation, all are 8th Generation or higher. (One Elder does reside in Baltimore but that’s a different story all together.) Also, Baltimore’s vampire population is more open-minded to things like Caitiff and etc. than the usual Camarilla city. Finally, the Prince of the city is a Gangrel.
|Not quite the Coterie from my game.|
Now that you have an idea of the kind of setting that I use for Vampire the Masquerade, maybe you’ll understand how things led to this point. The new chronicle started with the players arriving at Elysium. The PCs were relatively new citizens of the city. Leon was a former private investigator and the childe of the Nosferatu Primogen. D.D. was a playboy bunny and the childe of the Sheriff, and she was a Ventrue. Both Leon and D.D. had spent most of the time since they were embraced in Baltimore. The other three members of the coterie were recent arrivals. Vincent was a former car thief and a Lasombra-antitribu. Dexter was D.D’s brother and a former FBI Agent. Dexter was also a Ventrue. Finally, Chris was a doctor who specialized in prosthetics, and was embraced by a Tremere. Most importantly, Chris had taken the flaw: Haunted.
Since Clan Gangrel had left the Camarilla and the seat occupied by the Gangrel Primogen was vacant, the Primogen were trying to decide if they should allow a Gangrel or Caitiff or someone else to represent the independent clans in the city. Three candidates were available: the childe of the Prince (a Gangrel), a runaway Tzimisce who’d escaped her sadistic Sire, and a streetwise Caitiff who had recently been discovered in the city. The players hadn’t chosen who to side with, but they had decided to work against the Caitiff.
The Caitiff, named Simone, had ghouled a pimp in the slums of Baltimore. The players decided to capture this pimp and interrogate him for information about Simone. When they finally tracked down the pimp at a bar he was known to frequent, he had been attacked and kidnapped by a hunter. The players found only a bar full of corpses and security camera footage of the attacker using military weapons to kill the bar customers. With a little work they were able to figure out that the hunter worked at a Private Military Contractor (PMC) in Baltimore, and the PMC’s main office was in the Leg Mason Building, he tallest skyscraper in the city.
So, cut to the interior of the Leg Mason Building with the PCs standing outside the glass walls of the PMC’s office. They looked in at the security system and cameras, and then they started talking to each other trying to discover the best way to break into the office. First, they tried to go through the ceiling, but utterly failed that. They continued talking and then with one sentence, Vincent destroyed my chronicle.
|And then his happened to my whole Chronicle!|
He said, “I punch the glass!” I looked at him and said, “Are you sure?” He nodded replying that yes he wanted to do that. He spent blood to pump his Strength Attribute and with his Potence he was able to punch through the glass. That’s when he noticed the security sensor hanging down that had detected that the glass had been broken. Vincent, D.D. and Christopher rushed into the room to gather the information they needed to track down the hunter, and Dexter and Leon went back to the hotel lobby to handle the security guards. However, by the time that Dexter and Leon were able to get to the lobby, the security guards had already called the cops. Nevertheless, Dexter and Leon were able to convince the security guards to erase the footage of the break in and keep them from going upstairs to investigate.
Upstairs, D.D., Chris, and Vincent were able to gather the information they needed but by then the cops had already arrived. Warned by Dexter and Leon, they took the freight elevator to the Second Floor to avoid the cops on the main elevator. Stuck on the Second Floor of the building, they decided to smash out a window and escape into an alley. They smashed out the window with a chair and jumped into the alley, but when they did, Vincent landed on some garbage and drew the cops into the alley way. Everyone hid, but Chris failed his Stealth check and the cops noticed him. He used Dominate Level 1 and told one of them to run, and Vincent did the same to the other cop. The cops fell all over themselves trying to escape the alley and the monsters inside.
|Cover to Wraith the Oblivion|
At this point, I glanced over at Chris’s character sheet as it was passed around the table. That’s when I noticed that Chris has taken the flaw: Haunted. I’ve never read Wraith and I know very little about Wraiths in general, but I decided that the Wraith that was haunting Chris would bolster the cops giving them the courage to overcome the Dominate effect. Instead of running for their lives, they ran back to their squad cars and got their shotguns. The return of the cops into the alley was foreshadowed by the most frightening sound in the world: the sound of a shell being loaded into a pump action shot gun.
D.D. and Vincent heard the sound and hesitated. They looked to the other end of the alley and saw the lights of cop cars down there too. They are trapped, but they decided to run. Chris, on the other hand, decided to play dead. D.D. and Vincent ran out of the alley way and tried to avoid the incoming fire, but they couldn’t dodge it all. D.D. is seriously injured and Vincent chose to surrender so that the cops would stop shooting. He knew that D.D. couldn’t take much more damage and lifted his hands over his head.
The two cops with shotguns walked down the alley and found Chris’s body, obviously dead. However, when the cops took a close look at him, the Wraith caused him to exhale a breath of air. Assuming that Chris is just unconscious, they grabbed his body and drug him back to the squad car and threw him into the back seat. Vincent was tossed into the back of another cop car, and D.D. was loaded into an ambulance because of all of wounds she’d received. With D.D. cuffed to the gurney, she had little chance of escape. While all of this was happening, Leon and Dexter strolled out of the building without a problem using Presence and Dexter’s credentials from the FBI.
|BOOM! Stop or I'll Shoot!!|
The session ended with Leon and Dexter back in their respective havens. D.D. was taken to the emergency room cuffed to the gurney. Chris was taken to Baltimore City Jail to be processed. Vincent was able to escape the cops by using Obtenebration to cause a traffic accident. He stole the SUV that the cops crashed into and drove away chased by the cops.
We weren’t able to run for a couple of weeks because of an anime convention that we all worked at took up one Sunday, our usual day, and one of the group wanted to run Eclipse Phase for a night. Over the course of the last two weeks, all of the players have pretty much decided that their characters have been rendered unplayable. Even if they were able to survive the next session, they would most likely be social pariahs because of their foolishness or at the worst, they would be blood hunted for breaking the Masquerade. As a group we decided to call an end to that chronicle and start something fresh.
So, what lessons can we learn from all this. First, I think that player boredom is a dangerous element in any game. While the others were trying to discern the best way to defeat the PMC’s security system, Vincent became bored and decided that doing anything was better than just standing around. Second, be careful what flaws you take when you build your character. Haunted is a 3 point flaw and gives a sadistic Storyteller one more powerful NPC to use against the players. If you do take a flaw like Haunted, make sure that you have access to some way to deal with that Wraith. A Tremere, like Chris can’t directly affect the Wraith, but a Giovanni could. A Giovanni might be able to deal directly with the Wraith and at the very least mitigate some of the damage. Finally, I don’t think of myself a “killer DM” or even a “mean DM.” I am here to help the players tell a story. I think that I got too carried away with being an antagonist to the players rather than working with them. Next time, I’ll do better.
I hope you enjoyed this tale from the table. If you want to hear more about my version of Baltimore by Night, please leave comments and questions below.