[DAV] Istanbul’s Still Constantinople – Non-Player Characters

This week, in Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, yer Uncle Von will demonstrate how all this story-game theory comes together into practice.  In this second post, I’ll be showing how I integrated ‘what my players want to play’ with ‘the WoD metaplot’ and ‘what I actually want to run’.

From the players’ choices, I need developed characters and infrastructures for Nosferatu, Brujah and Tzimisce – it also means I need some Cappadocians handy in case Hark wants to leap that way later.  This stage occurred sort of concurrently with the beginnings of the city design – while I was learning about Constantinople I discovered underground rivers, mazes and holy springs, and really wanted to have a sort of holy turf war going on underneath the city between two Nosferatu bloodlines (different ancestors, different faiths).  So I want two lots of Nosferatu.

From the metaplot… WHOO.  Constantinople’s fall in 1204 is the turning point for the Dark Ages metaplot, so there’s a lot of baggage there.  For starters, I count four Methusalae involved somewhere.  Michael (4th generation Toreador, thinks he’s an angel, dies in the siege, and the whole ‘Vampire Paradise’ was his idea so when he goes down the dream dies with him), Antonius (Ventrue, decided to make him 5th generation, he’s dead before 1204 but he will have descendants and such), Mary the Black (5th generation Baali… bugger that, there’s too many clans already, and the Baali’s archetype works perfectly well with a member of a proper clan, so let’s make her a Toreador too) and the Dracon (4th generation Tzimisce).

Now, there are two issues with designing a Masquerade city that you don’t have with Requiem.  One is Generation.  Vampire don’t exist in a vacuum, they have sires and childer and extended up-and-down families to deal with.  A Methuselah is almost certainly going to beget descendants and most of them are probably still going to be around (offstage, in other parts of the Methuselah’s domain, as princes of other cities, but existing as links in the chain between the wee little PCs and the vast important NPCs).  All fine, but when you have a default generation of twelfth for PCs you need to account for seven generations of NPCs somewhere, for versey-multitudes – because someone WILL ask how the jump from 4 to 12 happens and it helps to have at least some idea of where all those vampires have got to.  And assuming that each Methuselah begets two childer (some will have more, less or none, but we’ll take two as a workable average because with three the numbers go crazy and one seems unrealistic given how long these buggers have already lived, loved, worried about their legacy…), we have five hundred and twelve childer between fourth and twelfth generation.

The other is the sheer number of clans.  There are thirteen of the blighters.  The modern WoD working estimate is, as far as I recall, ten thousand humans to hide and feed one vampire.  Before the siege, Constantinople had an approximate population of four hundred thousand, meaning enough room for forty vampires – and this place is renowned across Europe as the closest thing to vampire heaven on Earth.  After the siege… technically you have enough people left to feed three (estimated population about 35,000).  Now, I’m fine with the siege reducing human numbers more than vampire numbers and leaving a shortage of food and cover – that’s hot, that’s a plot point.  However, I’m not fine with the idea that forty vampires can include representatives from all thirteen clans and still account for the chains of sire-to-childe that are indicated above and the prospect of interesting relationships within the clan on a local level (because not all Nosferatu are friends, see previous).  Which means some of the clans have to go.

Fortunately, I don’t think we need them all.  Ravnos are out because I hate White Wolf’s ‘gypsies are magic’ shtick and Chimierstry is the sort of stupid-broken power set that Ben must never be allowed to witness or acquire.  Tremere are out, although they remain a distant, looming threat on the horizon – we’re a long way away from the Teutonic territories where they’ve acquired a foothold.  Gangrel are cool but they’re not really important.  I use Malkavians all the time and it can’t be good for me.

I definitely need Tzimisce, Brujah, and Nosferatu, for the players, and I want Cappadocians for Hark and because Cappadocians are cool.  Plus, the Fourth Crusade was compromised by Venetian interests, which gives me an in for a Giovanni NPC and some inter-clan tension among the NPCs if I include two.  It’d be nice if the Venetians were represented by another clan… hmm, setting book says the Prince is a Lasombra in 1230, so let’s stick him in there too, say his sire sent him here for some reason.  The setting also implies I need Toreador (although not many, Michael and Mary don’t strike me as the profligate kind) and a Ventrue or two (descendants of Antonius, sort of falling off the vine a bit).  In this part of the world, the Assamites and Setites actually make sense… I’ll stick a Setite in since I have an idea for an NPC there, and save the Assamites for later, if I need them.

The players’ clans need the most developing, especially since there’s a Methuselah member for one of them nearby.  Let’s start there.  With a resource for names on standby, I get to work on a family tree for some Byzantine Tzimisce.

It's like the Old Testament in 'ere.I try to save the names I like the sound of for NPCs the players will actually encounter, or hear about.  I also try to keep the names of NPCs the players will actually encounter fairly distinct too, otherwise this happens.  I also tried to include at least one fork in the longest bloodlines, and farm off a couple of members from clans that are becoming too big (hence the tallies at the bottom).

That’s why we have a few dead Tzimisce in there, and a whole mess of Brujah farmed off to a nearby domain where the eldest I can be bothered designing is Prince (the island of Lacadaemonica, essentially a sort of shadow-Constantinople where the stroppy Brujah set up their own Vampire Paradise because they hadn’t had the idea first – the place and one of the names is ripped from the sourcebooks but I’ve made up the rest).  Haven’t bothered with full bloodlines for the Ventrue (I feel the clan might have written Constantinople off to an extent after the death of Antonius, although one elder stayed behind) or the Giovanni (if the PCs go to Venice I’ll extrapolate the bloodlines from there).

Nossie Family ValuesI’ve taken a slightly different approach for the Nosferatu, as I want there to be two major bloodlines in conflict (is it a family squabble, a turf war, or a theological dispute?).  One canonical Methuselah’s involved on the Slavic Orthodox side (I figure they came to the city with the Varangian Guard, hence picking a name that slides between Russian and Greek for the eldest member who’s actually in the city – and that might be an in for Ben’s character too, now that I think about it, should make a note of that.  AND a potential Tzimisce connection if they came via Kiev.).

Anyway, I made up another fourth-generation Methuselah, picking a suitably mythic Arabic name, and I’ve decided that bloodline is such a big thing for her descendants that half of them have adopted her name as a surname (the ones that haven’t split at the sixth generation and buggered off to be ‘Leper Princes’ of an Arabic city, haven’t decided which yet, adopting a different naming convention).

My tallies indicate twenty-odd vampires, plus the PCs.  That’ll do for starters, and leaves me with room for a few more casualties of war or a few extra NPCs if I start having good ideas later on.  Each of those needs some stats… I’ve been using the ‘Vampires of Vornheim’ PDF for rough stat blocks, on the principle that a Mental, Social and Physical pool, a Willpower stat and Discipline ratings are probably all I really need for NPC stats.  They also need a personality.  Back to the Tarot!  One Major Arcana flip and a bit of greasy interpretation will flesh them out, give me ideas for their long term goals and their links to each other (two Hermits could maybe connect, OR be totally opposed – I flipped a lot of Hermits when I was doing this bit, for some reason).  At this stage, I draw links between them, setting up plot threads that the players can yank on, and make sure there are ties to each player character both within and outside their clan (in case a player takes a dislike to every clan member they meet, or decides that their character will reject their heritage – plan for player choices ahead, save dodgy improv later).  I’ll also be knocking up any ghoul retainers or mortal catspaws at this stage, as the vampire NPCs become more developed – these are the characters I always forget and always end up bodging badly on the fly.

Once that’s done, all I have to do is build a set on which this cast can strut their funky stuff.  That’ll be the next post.  Then maybe I’ll get back to talking about something else.

7 thoughts on “[DAV] Istanbul’s Still Constantinople – Non-Player Characters

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  1. I’m curious. In Masquerade, it makes sense to start the characters off at 11th-12th generation. The days of old are long past, and Methusalae are rarely if ever seen (and are invariably the big bads behind the scenes of it all). In Dark Ages, they’re interacting almost directly with the 4th and 5th generation head honchos. Does it really make sense/play well to have them start off at such a low generation? Or does making them a higher generation simply start them with too much power?

  2. I do, as it happens, think 12th is too far along the bloodline chain to appear in the early thirteenth century.

    The big break point, in terms of mechanical ‘power’, is between 9th and 10th. I like 10th as a starting point for new players’ characters. It immediately makes the PCs sires mechanically more powerful than them, creating that healthy sense of authority and resentment that’s so important in motivating a new vampire, and also providing ripe, tempting territory for wannabe diablerists (once they find out what that means).

    Once a player has done their time with one blood point per turn and no more than five dots in anything, I’ll consider unlocking the lower generations; Dark Ages has a nice template for elder characters which starts at 9th, easily unlocks six-dot Discipline powers, and awards a triple handful of Background points. It’s a very different game and makes a nice change after you’ve done a few bottom-of-the-food-chain types, but I think you need to have done bottom-of-the-food-chain once to have a feel for the system and its possibilities, and also for the themes of the game. A new player with a 9th or 8th generation character tends not to feel quite so tyrannised by their elders or threatened by the mortal witch hunters when they come to town.

    (Any typos in this comment brought to you by my little ginger literary assistant, who hasn’t been able to stay off the keyboard for five minutes all morning. I knew I should have picked a clan with Animalism…)

    1. Something came to my mind as I read through your material that I wonder if you’ve thought about. Maybe you have and just brushed it aside.

      It states in the core book that not every embrace ends in a successful newborn vampire. There are some cases where the cainites blood simply isn’t strong enough. It does not specifically state that the only cause of this is generational. This leads me to conclude that if a vampire has not had time to mature then perhaps he would be unable to sire himself. Ergo, when one is finally able to pass on the Curse of Caine then the generational gap need not be overwhelming between the two to create the effect that you were looking for when you wrote this. The age and experience of the sire should more than enough to lord over their progeny as a storyteller.

      1. Thanks for commenting! I like it when people remember that I don’t believe in ‘thread necromancy’. :D

        The effect I’m talking about is much more mechanical than narrative. I feel like you’ve picked up on “terrorised by your elders” and worried at it at the expense of the overall point, which is that a ninth generation vampire is mechanically more efficient than a tenth, an eighth than a ninth and so on, whereas from tenth to thirteenth there’s not really a huge leap. It’s the capacity to spend more than one blood point a turn, and the more rapid increases in the size of the blood pool, that do it.

        Vampires of lower generation feel more powerful because of what they can do, because of what the machinery of the game allows them to do. Playing eleventh is a very different practical experience from playing eighth (to show what you can do with one dot in Generation on either template); the elders template starts you at the other side of the break point.

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