Monday, February 1, 2010

Maybe a little too epic...

So I started perusing White Wolf's Fall of the Camarilla, an epic campaign meant to be played with their Requiem for Rome campaign setting. The short version: The Camarilla of Vampire: the Requiem is similar to the similarly-named group from Vampire: the Masquerade; it is sort of a "vampire United Nations." The difference between the two games is that in VtM the Camarilla is the "default" mode of play, and in Requiem the organization crumbled and broke apart around the same time that the Roman Empire was in decay. Fall of the Camarilla is a campaign in which your groups' characters experience, shape, and possibly die in said fall.

There was a time in my life where I'd have already had a group with characters ready to go, and I would be chomping at the bit to run a game like this. Unfortunately, I don't know that my gaming tastes are compatible with this sort of thing anymore.

For one thing, how can any player derive much enjoyment from a campaign where the ending is already a foregone conclusion? The players know that the Camarilla is history well before the modern era, and there isn't really much they can do to stop it. (I haven't read the book in its entirely, so forgive me if you know this not to be true, but from what I could find in the epilogue section, the fall is inevitable.)

One thing that I have become big on is player choice and player navigation; I make the world, they play in it, and they mess with the stuff they like. I do not try to force them in any given direction. In my current game, the party has chosen to leave Tarraxian and return home. If they had decided to spend the rest of their days on Tarraxian, I'd have filed away all the information on their home world and mapped out the rest of the post-apocalyptic world. In my last (failed) World of Darkness game, I let the characters loose in a mental asylum that had a lot of bad, evil, eldritch shit going down, and my intention was that they would run and play in the sandbox. (It didn't quite turn out that way, but that is another story, and I'm still not convinced that I couldn't pull it off if I tried it again.)

I still like White Wolf and I'd like to try another chronicle someday, but my tastes have changed so much that I'm not sure how I'd fare in another "story" based game. I think the simulation bug has bitten me and I now find the idea of baiting the players along a pre-determined story to be kind of.... I don't know, cheap. I know that I, as a player, am most frustrated when I feel like my decisions have little to no effect on the game (beyond, perhaps, do I charge the guy or use my Improved Face Punch feat?) If I were invited to play in Fall of the Camarilla, would I accept the invitation? Yeah, maybe...and then I'd try like hell to stop it, not because I want to be a fucktard or screw with my GM's carefully laid plans, but because hey- this type of game lets me play a character and do what I want! If your Super Secret Vampire Club of Rome was going down in flames, wouldn't you want to stop it? I suddenly envision a session of Deadlands or Boot Hill where the GM says, "Hey, don't fight too hard, guys... this is the Alamo, after all!" The treasure in Raggi's Grinding Gear may be damn difficult to get, but the most important thing is that it is possible.

I noted earlier that I am involved in a WFRP1 campaign. The campaign is a pre-published affair called "The Doomstones." I know how it ends because the ending is somewhat infamous, but I'm going to see what I can do to shake things up....because, really, if you're just going to follow a pre-set plot where all you do is mash the buttons-er, I mean, roll to hit, well... you might as well pop in Final Fantasy XIII or Assassin's Creed II....not that there is anything wrong with that, but roleplaying games can go beyond the confines of memory space and programming limitations, and that is why I love gaming so much more when it is the pencil and paper variety instead of the 360 or PS3 variety.

um....and that's what diversity means to me...


  1. Personalty Ithought RfR was a pretty well balanced story game. There are plenty of places for players to make a difference, while maintaining a pretty tight story, Yes the player "know" the end, but they don't know how it ends (The book even gives a second chance in Constantinople for players unwilling to accept defeat.) I ran part of it in a one on one game with my roommate for a while, but the game fizzled when I moved.

    I think the only reason RfR isn't more well recieved is the limited audience. It takes four hard cover books to run Fall of the Camarilla (Fall of the Camarilla, Requiem for Rome, Vampire the Requiem, and World of Darkness,) which is a tad much of an investment for a pregen chronicle for most players.

    ... wow, it's been a while since I talked WoD. Sorry for running off on a tangent.

    In short I'd say if you get a chance to run Fall, give it a shot. It runs much better than you might think.

  2. Well because sometimes finding how an event occurred just as much fun as the unknown future.

    The trick is to put the character in positions where the unfolding events effect them not where they shape the events.

    While I don't run past history campaign much I do have events occuring in the background that are out of the PC immediate control.

    Sometimes they wind up effecting them and other times it just background chatter like the rain or snow. In general my PC like how I present it as it gets them immersed in the world. They do effect things just not everything.

    As for the fall of the camerilla if your campaign is about the fall then the PCs are likely going to be frustrated at the preordained fate. But if it is about X that takes place during the fall. Then you may have one cool campaign to run. If you have trouble figuring X look at some minor element or conflict that took place during the fall.

  3. It's interesting to me that the nWoD is so wide open. I really appreciate how the Storyteller and players have such latitude without a looming met-plot.

    With that in mind, the campaign you described might feel a bit constraining.

    I like your idea of joining such a game to see how badly you can wreck the plot. Awesome!

  4. @Christian- I'm not really trying to "wreck" it so much as "have a meaningful outcome based on player and character actions/decisions." When I play games like this, I'm not trying to be an ass, but if I'm seriously just there to roll dice as we chug towards a set-in-stone outcome, why not just plug in a video game?

    Also, your comment made me realize that this is really the only instance of "metaplot" in the NWoD that I can think of; the games are largely free of NPC driven storylines and lots of onerous canon. In those respects, the NWoD games are a breath of fresh air.