Monday, May 6, 2013

I Order a Pizza.

            In my latest Vampire the Masquerade session, one of the players did something so clever and so brilliant that I was surprised at how simple, how effective, and how obvious it was.  Usually, the beginning of each session starts as the player characters awake just after sunset.  “You wake up.  Spend a blood point.  What do you do after you wake up?”  Is how I being many sessions of Vampire the Masquerade.  And the most common task that players complete first is hunting.  Each character has his or her own methods for successful hunting.  How a character hunts for sustenance is an important aspect of his or her personality. 
Arcterus, a Gangrel con artist, prefers to visit bars in the bad parts of Baltimore where he attacks people in the men’s room when they are at their most vulnerable.  He waits for someone to go to the bathroom, follows them in, and bites the mortal while he is taking a leak.  Arcterus leaves with his thirst satiated, and the mortal is left sprawled passed out on the bathroom floor where most people will think that he just had too much to drink.  It’s quick and simple, and this method doesn’t risk breaking the Masquerade. 
Annie, a 12 year old Gangrel, uses her youth to effectively hunt.  She wanders around Downtown Baltimore and asks passing women to help her find her mother.  With her big blue, teary eyes, Annie uses her skills in manipulation when she finds a potential victim.  Grabbing the victim by the hand, she leads them into an alley where she latches on with her sharp fangs and drinks her fill. 
Both of these methods are really good for hunting.  They don’t require much time to complete, and usually I arbitrate them by having the players roll dice just once.  Arcterus rolls Dexterity plus Stealth, and Annie rolls Charisma plus Subterfuge.  I don’t think that there is any reason to stretch out a hunting scene unless it moves the story forward.  If the player character was exceptionally short of blood or if he or she was hunting in another’s domain, then I would require some additional dice rolls and make hunting a complete scene. 
However, even though I don’t make hunting a big deal for players, sometimes they surprise with me how clever or foolish they can be.  Players will often look to make hunting a non-issue because they don’t want to risk their characters on what is essentially a bookkeeping issue.  If a player doesn’t buy into the setting and tone of the World of Darkness, then that’s all hunting will ever be for that player:  a way to refresh his or her power points to fuel his or her abilities. 
To that end, I have seen players look for a way around hunting.  In almost every instance, the player thinks that he or she can just go to the local blood bank to get the needed blood.  The methods used can vary from player to player, but the two most commonly used methods that I have seen are controlling the blood bank or robbing the blood bank.  Neither of these two methods is very smart to be honest.
A new player character in a city is not going to be able to take over a blood bank because established Kindred already control that resource.  Why wouldn’t someone already own it?  It’s an obvious source of blood that is only limited by the vampire’s self control.  It’s such an important resource that I would expect that only a truly powerful Elder would be able to maintain his grip on this resource since so many other vampires would desire this resource as well.  Because it’s such a desirable resource, a blood bank would be well protected against other Kindred trying to control it.  A neonate would have almost no chance to wrest control of the blood bank away from this Elder.  In fact, he would probably bring down all kinds of trouble onto his own head and the heads of his coterie. 

On the other hand, breaking into a blood bank could be a possibility for a player character that was clever and stealthy or had Obfuscate.  The problem arises when the player character has successfully stolen the blood.  Blood is well tracked because it’s such a valuable commodity for both mortals and Kindred.  Missing blood packs are going to be noticed even if the vampire goes unnoticed during the burglary. A lucky or smart vampire could be successful, once or maybe even twice, but after that, security is going to tighten.  Once the Elder who controls the Blood Bank notices his private stash is being pilfered, he’s going to come looking for the culprits with a vast array of resources. 
With all that in mind, sometimes players really surprise me with their ingenuity.  During my latest session, the players had just awoken.  Each set out to hunt. Arcterus went to a bar, and Annie went downtown looking someone to help find her mom.  Fitz, a Gangrel computer hacker, ordered pizza.  At first, I was confused because I had no idea what Fitz had planned or why he would order a pizza.  Then it dawned on me.  He’d just got take out delivered to him.  I was shocked at the simplicity and effectiveness of calling someone to come to your door and bring you blood.  He drinks some of the delivery driver’s blood and sends him off with tip in hand.  It’s also perfectly in character with Fitz’s back story.  He is a computer hacker who before his embrace lived on energy drinks and take out.  Everything about the who scenario is brilliant, and although use of this hunting strategy over the long term could draw some unwanted attention to Fitz, I was really impressed. 
When it comes to hunting in Vampire the Masquerade, players should develop hunting tactics that fit their character.  Young Annie uses her childish appearance.  Arcterus assaults people in barroom toilets.  Fitz orders out pizza.  Each strategy fits with the PC’s personality.  Rather than looking for the easiest way to hunt or a method of hunting with no risk, these three players have used their wits to develop a fitting hunting strategy for their characters.    Players should keep that in mind when designing their characters.  Answering “How Do I Hunt?” helps define a PCs entire personality. 

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