My role playing career can be summed up by the phrase “Always the Storyteller.” I chose the word “Storyteller” not because this is a Vampire the Masquerade blog, but because for White Wolf/The Onyx Path games, I am most likely the person who is running the game. For that reason, I rarely get to play; so I don’t have many stories about VtM characters. When I did get to play most of the games were one-shots and were usually not much different from a modern first person shooter. The PCs would get a mission, we’d go kill someone, and the game would be over. So, most of those characters aren’t really memorable. The one character that I do remember clearly is my first character, but every reader of this blog (both of you) has heard that story plenty.
Instead of trying to dredge up some crappy story about a character that I half remember, I’ll talk a little bit about an NPC that I used in one of my most recent games. One of the problems that I noticed about starting characters as newly Embraced vampires is that they are at the bottom of food chain. However, that’s not actually the case. Most PCs start the game as legitimately Embraced vampires. The Prince gave their Sire’s permission to Embrace a mortal, and then those characters are accepted into vampire society. Conversely, some vampires such as Caitiff are illegitimate. They aren’t accepted by the Prince or are accepted begrudgingly. Adding characters, like Caitiff, who are below the characters in the hierarchy of the city is more realistic and tonally appropriate for Vampire the Masquerade because the one of the themes of VtM is the war of ages. Therefore if the Storyteller has some NPCs that the players can lord their power and position over fits within this theme, the city feels more “alive.”
Jessie was a Tzimisce Anti-tribu that I created for my Baltimore by Night setting. She was a former stripper in New York City who had been Embraced and tortured by her Sire. Eventually, she escaped him, but she was deformed. Somehow she made her way into Baltimore were she hid until she eventually found and taken in by an Autarkis Toreador named Tasia. Tasia helped her gain control of her Disciplines and put herself back together again. Jessie was accepted by the Prince, but only because Tasia, a powerful Elder, sponsored her. Despite the sponsorship, the rest of the city despised Jessie as an outsider.
I liked running Jessie because she was the lowest character on the Kindred totem pole. She was the scapegoat for plans that went awry. She was the character that every other character, NPC or PC, looked down upon. It’s easy to run a powerful character who can do anything, and even when something seems to go wrong, it’s ok because those events were all part of the plan. Even running a weak NPC is a challenge because that character has an agenda and goals, but the struggles to accomplish even the least of those goals are more difficult. If nothing else, a weak NPC like Jessie, offers the Storyteller a way to test his/her players. How the PCs treated Jessie was a sign of the character’s level of sympathy and thus their Humanity. So, that’s why I liked Jessie because she was a useful character and had an interesting story.