US Requiem Chronicle Themes

To follow is an examination of the themes and struggles that are planned to occur during the arc of a five year chronicle.  Storytellers and players alike should cooperate in order to incorporate these themes into their own games and styles of play – the goal of this outline is to enhance the stories we tell and provide a shared, thematic “arc” to tonight’s Crucible.

Readers should keep in mind: This five-year plan may bridge to a longer Chronicle. We are currently planning for five years, but if, as of May 2017, the senior ST staff has clear signals from the players that the Chronicle should continue, this plan in no way prevents that. During year five, no player should think “Well, we only have a few more months, so…” and take their PC in a self-destructive direction.   This is the current plan, but plans change.

 

Year One: May 2013 to Apr 2014 – Establishing “Normal”

We’ve had great success developing Covenant structures in our first Chronicle; now it’s time to reach beyond that. We’ll be developing a series of other structures at the broadest levels, and encouraging local Storytellers to develop local structures to enhance the kinds of games they want. The OOC tool for this local development is the VSS, and the VSS should be specific about what the game is like. An outside player should be able to read the VSS and know what things are most important, least important, and actively discouraged in a given game.

The themes for the first year relate to that. We want to promote Clan identity and city identity beyond simple Status. Loners can exist, but they will face an uphill battle. We’ll be asking the rules team to work on ideas that benefit those who group together for association, benefit those who group together for mechanical effectiveness to a lesser extent, and give little to no reward to loners. It’s a social game, and interaction is encouraged. Rules changes create changes in player behavior, so we will adapt the rules to benefit the behavior that makes game more enjoyable. For the first year, this means players interaction and involvement will be heavily encouraged.

One of the areas we’ll be looking at is Humanity. A key theme in Requiem is the nearly-inevitable slide towards the Beast. Those who have frequent and close association will have an easier time keeping their Humanity intact, while loners and hermits will not gain those benefits. The themes for this aspect are companionship as salvation and the importance of family (Clans, Bloodlines, and lineages).

The second major area we’ll be looking at is social mobility. The system will be structured to allow mobility, both up and down, in a fairly rapid fashion. A PC should be able to approach the peak of the social structure in at least one organization with dedicated effort over several months. The first year will be the most active time for gaining and losing Status, forming or refining alliances, developing the core norms of Clans, Bloodlines, and lineages, and so on. The theme for this stage is the development of the game world and the laying of foundations.

 

Year Two: May 2014 to Apr 2015 – Fear of Falling

By the end of year one, we’d like most players to be comfortable, if not entirely satisfied, with their position in the world. A significant minority, though, should still be looking to move up. Year Two will limit the positions at the top a bit more, forcing some conflict for who stays at the peak. Perhaps there were initially five PC’s at the top of the organization, but now the structure is tightening, and there will be only four slots at the top. Who loses out? At least one will fall, and it’s likely that two of the five will change, as someone from below seeks to move up. Not every PC will lose out or advance- but every PC should be thinking about how to keep what they have and get more. If not, then someone more ambitious (PC or NPC) will do so.

As part of this stage, ST’s will be encouraged to develop NPC’s with depth on par with PC’s and hire dedicated players to portray those NPC’s to really challenge PC’s. Any PC who is sure that his or her Status and position are secure should have that security carefully reviewed by the local ST, leading to a challenge by either a PC or NPC with similar (but not the same) style. It would be less than enjoyable for a socially-minded PC to be targeted by a combat NPC who simply plans to beat down the character – that doesn’t add to the player experience.  The local ST should challenge this social ladder-climber by encouraging another social PC to challenge him or developing a social NPC for the same purpose.  Related skills are also very applicable; a social character may find her contribution lacking if a skilled investigative PC keeps uncovering the sources of trouble in the city and benefiting the residents by locating potential problems early enough for simple solutions.

Year Two is about jockeying for position. Themes involved should include coming of age -Innocent PC’s may find their ambition meaningless unless they accept that vampires are cruel creatures.  Will they hold onto their “human” behavior and lose ground?   Or will they accept the realities of vampire politics, and be rewarded for it?   Another powerful theme will be honor versus duty.  When a superior throws an underling in the path of danger to save themselves, does the underling place duty and honor over opportunism?   Or does the underling avoid the danger, let the problem take their superior down a few pegs, and open up avenues for advancement?

 

Year Three: May 2015-Apr 2016 – Changes

During the midpoint of our scheduled five-year story arc, changes begin to occur.  These changes not only affect existing structures, but alter them to some degree. With the first two years allowing the players and storytellers to examine how the current structures function (and don’t function), year three will allow for any necessary or story driven changes. Structures will fall and others will take their places, with existing ideas challenged at their most basic levels. If the first two years have caused anything to head off-track, this is the year for any correction.

From an in-character standpoint, this will be the stage where player-driven organizations will get their chance to shine. Player-created groups that have prospered and proven popular, effective, and good for the larger game will get their chance to grow to major Conspiracies.

Themes will include examination of evolution, revolution and tradition in a three-way contest for control of the Danse Macabre; power, hubris and corruption; and death and rebirth. Players who feel they have adequately explored certain concepts will be encouraged to explore new directions with their current character or create an entirely new one. PC’s who did terrible things during Year Two to retain their positions and power should be aware of the consequences for their actions, whether receiving their comeuppance or tightening their iron grasp on power. If we think of year one as choosing a team for social competition, and year two as assigning characters to positions on the team, year three is the start of the competition in earnest, the teams colliding in the arena of vampiric society.

 

Year Four: May 2016- Apr 2017 – Can We Win This Thing?

To continue the contest analogy, year four is post-halftime. The winners of year three are trying to keep what they’ve gained, and the losers are looking for ways to turn things around.  Prophecies and portents, used very little in the first three years, will become more prominent in year four.  These omens will serve as in-character means for characters to understand any out-of-character changes that will happen.

Rules will be created to channel competition. The areas of competition that the players enjoy, as shown in the first three years, will become more clarified. If the players have demonstrated in the first three years that they really enjoy political conflict involving the Invictus and Carthians, or wish to explore a religious contest between the Lancea Sanctum and  Circle of the Crone, the prophecies will reflect this. If the players have shown that they want to explore the slide from Humanity to the Beast, then the portents will reinforce that. Year Four is the year of reformation after the changes in year three, helping to define the “new normal.”

Themes for year four should include fate versus free will.  Can one change the future to something other than what the omens say?  Can we, as players and PC’s, break free from the conflicts we’ve shown the ST’s we want and make the game go in a different direction?   The nature of progress should also play a key role.  After three years, are we pretty much still in the same situation? Did the previous year of change make any real difference?   Finally, the theme of individualism versus security should be explored.  Does one go along with the prophecy, taking the simple path of destiny, or does one struggle against it to forge their own path?  We’ll be asking the rules team to create benefits for those who align with the prophecy and generating challenges for those who want to go a different route. We will not make those benefits so overwhelming that it is impossible to take a different tack than the prophesied path, but it will certainly be easier to “go with the flow” than to fight the current of fate.

 

Year Five: Post-May 2017 – Tragedy

Year five is planned to be the year of the fall. The world is harsher. Where year two saw fewer social positions at the top, generating conflict over those positions, year five will make more basic success harder. Exactly how and why that happens will be determined by the players during the first four years, but things will get tough in year five – tough enough to encourage betrayal of even one’s closest allies.

Blood may become scarce, with a set amount allotted by each local ST – with fewer kindred in the city, there may be more to go around… Contacts, allies, and retainers may be harder to keep as humans become more suspicious.  There will be fewer opportunities to interact with humans as caretakers or predators or experimenters, creating conflict.  No Dragon wants their experiment interfered with by a Lance trying to frighten a human back to God; No Carthian wants her well-developed ally to be unceremoniously Blood Bound and turned into an Invictus Retainer, but these are exactly the kinds of things that should happen in year five.

Themes should include the heartbreak of betrayal, temptation, and religion as virtue or hypocrisy.  Many of these themes may even be included by prophecy in year four.  Power will go to those who are willing to be the most heartless, and we will ask the rules team to develop ways to reflect that. As year one was the development of bonds, year five is the shattering of those bonds. Trust, in year five, will be a rare and precious commodity – if there are many large groups who all trust one another, we’re doing something wrong.  Vampires are not heroes, not decent people, and not inclined to keep promises that put them at a disadvantage. Year five will be designed to make this increasingly obvious.