The Sherriff of St Helens…

So, yes, some actual play yesterday…

Well, not war stories as such, more a few observations.

Opening thoughts
As per forge etiquette, a few notes first: This is my first actual play in over a year of any sort of RPG, and I have recently moved in to a new area. I’m currently staying with another player (S) who, despite being a couple of years younger than me, is technically my step-uncle-in-law, or something. He was one of the ST’s (Storytellers, yeeeccchhhh for that term) of the previous Merseyside group, and has many years experience with a core of WW gamers on Merseyside. The New st group essentially staged a coup about 6 months ago and killed the previous game. The former ST’s basically decided to give the St Helens game a go “without prejudice”, the attitude being that getting even a half decent game was more important than wounded pride.(note 1).

There were, IIRC, about 20 players, 3 ST’s (one co-opted late on), and one old hand player very much setting himself up as the fifth beatle fourth ST, providing phtocopied materials etc. Of these 20, about a quarter were either new to the group, new to Vampire, or new to LARP vampire.

What interested me, and concerned me a little, is that characters were created, submitted, first brought to the st’s attention, whatever, in the 1/2 hour before play. So it didn’t matter who we are, “The Archon tells you to be there, you have been chosen for a job.” I’m sitting there with a character with a solid gold kicker, but hey, we got a dungeon to delve…

My character is a newly made, 9th gen Brujah Professor of political philosophy, who only knows his sire as “the Carthaginian”, and who lost his family a few years ago in now suspicious circumstances. Told you he had kickers.

The game as she is spoke

The plot: Da man say St Helens surrounded by Sabbat, but we no hear from St Helens 3 day now. You go see what happen St Helens, come back and tell.

All players say: so, it’s a suicide mission, right?

Except S & other Tremere player go do their scouting thing in the astral, and find out exactly what happened. And arrange for entirely safe transport, which St’s then gazump players into missing (“So a can turns up from the Archon, and you get in, right?”)(Note 2)

So the “plot” was screwed from the beginning. In fact, afterwards, the new St was “stunned” by the fact that none of his plot survived, the players were doing things he hadn’t predicted…. erm, you have played LARP, or even with a moderately pro-active group?(Note 3) Have I been spoilt by the forge? Is this normal, or just an isolated case of an illusionist Gm straying into an area of play where that just doesn’t work?

But, give him his due, he rolled with the punches pretty well.

So, most folks are ambushed by the Sabbat on their way to St Helens, and picked up after snafu by friendly neighbourhood Tremere. In the aftermath, Newbie Ventrue declares himself prince just as we find we’re surrounded by 200 Sabbat. All vamps go “Yes, you be Prince then, Mr ventrue.”

Somehow, Some of our neighbourhood guys get hold of Sabbat Bishop, and my character gets made Sheriff(Note4). New Prince is manipulated by vaious people into immediately beheading bishop when he comfirms identity. End session.

It was only after the session that S & others filled me in on gossip, past histories between players, etc, in full, which I think was the best way to go.

Overall, it felt very much like a generic table top plot with a lot of PC’s, rather than something tooled for either LARP play, characters present, players present. That isn’t to say it was either bad or not fun, but not as good or as much fun as it could be.

I was also congratulated on maneouvering my way in to the Sheriff position, even thoguh my character is not really up to it, and knows it, and it’s a great big “kick me” sign.

Anyway, questions, comments, and should I post this on the Forge AP forum?

Note1: A case of “any game is better than no game”? Not really: if it sucked, they were going to walk and maybe think about going back to table top with anyone else from the gorup who thought it sucked.
Note 2: Every previous freeform I’ve been in has pretty much kept to the “dramatic unities”, one location, real time more or less. Abandoning this for, essentially, a freeform table top game with a lot of players was a jar for me. I mean, after game, S was telling me about the “real time” sessions they’ve played in the past as being really tense, some of the best ever.” Furthermore, the MET rule book tends to sassume very little in the way of jump cuts in time or space. So why are they there? Probably becuase most, if not all players came in via table top play, and LARP is being treated as table top but bigger.
Note 3: Have I been spoilt by the forge? Is this normal, or just an isolated case of an illusionist Gm straying into an area of play where that just doesn’t work?
Note4: Or as I termed it, his majesty’s loyal opposition.


4 thoughts on “The Sherriff of St Helens…

  1. What were expecting to get out of the game and how did the character sheet/mechanics allow you to go after the rewards that the game promises?

    1. Hmm, expectations were, to be honest, fairly low, given that I knew the previous history of the ST’s demolition of the previous game. But I had an intriguing character concept, and some experience of live games, so I was expecting some of that character to be used, and I was expecting less of a “super table top” game. The Character building / reward system is pretty similar to standard white wolf, and thus pretty standard for conventional RPG’s: you have a “starting level” character that is virtually guaranteed to be not what your concept was due to budgetary constraints. This is even with a house rule allowing ST’s to add a starting “package” of abilities at their discretion. A quick note on that: it seemed a given that we should use the standard points system to buikd the “vampire” parts of the character, and leave the “mortal” parts to be made up with the St package. Which for my character concept is FUBAR. The mechanical rewards, XP’s etc, are handed out by the lead St based on what he saw of your contribution to the game (Good RP, good costume, good plot advancement). This seemeed to be interpreted as “How well did yo, the player, contribute to my, the ST’s game.” Which is, for me, a little frustrating. The in game rewards of political influence etc went fairly as I expected, probably due to the presence of experienced LARP players. What really frustrated me, I think, is that the St is not engaging with the characters at all, and only peripherally with the players. Given the range of player agenda, they really have to up the grabbiness by either carrot or stick a great deal.

      1. First up, outside of my home group, I’ve never played in a good WoD game be it LARP or tabletop. I don’t think what you’re telling me about this game is going to convince me to try again. There seems to be a very strong “I won’t show me mine until you show me yours” current running through many WoD games. There are a load of superheroes who won’t tip their hands because they’re worried that someone else has the trump card for their particular power – in this respect scissor-paper-stone is probably the best resolution mechanic because it mirrors the game. It leads to nothing much happening until it’s time to go home when someone gets tired of the whole masquerade and finally lets loose. I can understand that you might want to protect your PC but I’m not sure it’s worth it if you’re never really going to do much with it. The solution is, as with the game you played, to make the threat external to the group. But that seems to be avoiding the issue and possibly something that best played in tabletop.

      2. Protect your PC should not, ever, trump doing something: this is, rather neatly, pointing back to John Wicks’ comments on good roleplayers, bad players. You should be creating characters that have to engage or die. One particualr player was pointed out to me as a guy who creates obscenely powerful characters and then does nothing with them, just Rp a little to get XP, but never act if there’s any risk to his characters position or person. I’m, sadly, beginning to get some of the Forgey frustration with WW games, which I always thought was over stated. The mismatches between the promise of the setting and the conventionality of the system, the image the players have of their characters and their behaviour in game… it could make you a bit frustrated, yes. It’s not so much that it sucked (it didn’t suck that bad), but that it was playing to the strengths of a TTG, not a live game. I definitely get the feeling that the (very young) lead ST has been used to running a TTG with a regular crowd, and they regularly get buzzed about their game. Now he’s moved out of that group, he expects the new, larger, more pro-active group to roll over like his regulars do…. What’s really, really frustrating is that, having watched I Clavdivs, and now reading TInker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I think LARPS could look a bit more like them than Die Hard 2 on Crossroads budget.

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