The game is afoot!

Posted in Gaming, GM musings, Vampire the Masquerade on October 5, 2013 by Azraphon

Today will see the start of my new Vampire game! Quite nervous actually. Both because it’s a new game and I always get a slight feeling of excited butterflies, and because of the nature of this game. Naturally, I feel I have not created enough depth in my game world. Some things remain missing which I know will have to be there. Unlike in a story-led game where a plot-relevant thing can wait for fleshing out until it is necessary to introduce it, in this game I have to think: “what is this person doing right now?” Sure, the Sabbat pack lurking in the abandonned motel just north of the city limits aren’t involved in the players’ nocturnal doings yet, but they’re not just sitting there like NPCs in an MMO, waiting for someone to interact with them. They’re doing things! Reacting, eventually, to the things the PCs are doing.

I have three weeks between sessions, so I can flesh things out then. Besides, it’s easier to determine reactions to the PCs’ doings once they’ve actually done them, since the manner of the doing tends to matter.

I’m engaging in a kind of character generation that has a sort of verisimilitude to it. The players will be asked to stat up their characters insofar as their mortal lives are concerned. This means they cannot decide certain things such as their Clan, who sired them, their Generation, what Sect they belong to, and so on. Based upon their backstory, character concept and to a limited extent their stats, I will decide who in the city decides to Embrace them into the loving family of Caine. Upon doing so, I determine things such as the above, and they get to pick their three Discipline dots.

This method of character creation has allowed me to flesh out some NPCs and their motivations. After all, even if they do not have the opportunity to Embrace on this occasion, their desires and attitudes remain the same. Joe Bloggs still wants to be Ventrue Primogen, even if he doesn’t have the Childe necessary to carry out his political schemes. Madame La Flour still wants to replace her old protege with the new up-and-coming star of the fashion scene, and will still plot to do so.

It’s not the kind of game world I usually keep alive inside my head. I’m happy for off-stage NPCs to perform their allotted role, and usually leave them to it. The price paid for an open-ended game is more mental paperwork, and in fact more paperwork. I may keep a journal of what occurs in the game. Meanwhile, I have preparations to make.

Going home

Posted in Journal on September 27, 2013 by Azraphon

I’ll be home for about a week, so probably no updates (though I’ll try).

Managed another 20-min workout (actually a couple of minutes short, from succumbing to the temptation to run as opposed to jog), but didn’t do any Latin stuff. Fear not, faithful readers, I am taking resources home with me!

New games

Posted in Gaming, Vampire the Masquerade on September 26, 2013 by Azraphon

I’ll very shortly start running a new game of Vampire: the Masquerade. I’m very excited, and also nervous. The reason for this nervousness is that the game I have planned goes against my normal gaming grain.

I tend to run games with a central story. Usually a story which the player characters can mutate, of course. Once I ran a game in which the first two acts happened so far above the players’ scope that all they could do was witness it. They turned this concept into an amazing game, possibly the best I’ve ever run. Once they were finally given the opportunity to interact with the overarching plot, they were so immersed in the world and their characters that they ended up having an excellent experience. I think, and I hope, that those characters will remain with them for a long time.

I’ve run very plot-driven games, usually in the university’s roleplay society. I’ve resorted to a bit of ‘bus routing’, which is what I call it when you railroad with a strong illusion of choice. In these games, I had a story to tell and the player characters were essentially dupes who were taking a generic role suitable to almost any set of stats and personality. Meanwhile, the characters’ uniqueness was borne out in side-plot, and used to characterise the otherwise immovable elements of the story.

The game I’m about to run is an alien combination of these concepts. Alien to me, at least. The game is completely open-ended. There will be no fudging of dice, and no bus routing. I’ve already compiled a list of NPCs more advanced and numerous than anything I’ve ever attempted, knowing full well that some of them may never be played. I’m writing down some things they want, i.e. potential quests. I’m trying to weave the web of their relationships, the politics of the city, and how the players fit into that. It’s an overwhelming, but entirely thrilling task. This game may go on for many years, at least that’s my hope.

I’ll try to keep the Crunch updated as to the game’s progress. Hopefully we’ll have our first session soon!

Freshers Week

Posted in Journal on September 26, 2013 by Azraphon

Managed another 20m, but already feeling like I can push myself. Also started buffing up my Latin vocab. Not sure how I can be very well wired for grammar, but somehow find the actual semantic content of a language sifting through me like sand through a sieve.

Freshers week this week, and more specifically societies fair today. Going to pop down and see what’s what. Maybe sign up to a couple, get whatever discounts they’re offering!

Must be off, have much tidying etc. to do before I leave.

Autumn

Posted in Journal on September 25, 2013 by Azraphon

I’m not sure I have a favourite season, but Autumn comes close. Not just the crispness of the air and the sight of red-brown leaves. Really, it’s because September and October are the months in which new things occur.

It’s the time when I make my new year’s resolutions, because for some time now, my year has begun at the end of September. So yes, this blog tracks a new year’s resolution, and people seldom keep to their resolutions. Hence the blog, and accounting to myself.

I’m trying to get myself onto the tutoring roster for the Latin summer school I once attended. I’m confident that I could instruct beginners with a week’s preparation, so by the time the summer school is in session once more, I shall be more than ready. That’s assuming they a) want me and b) have need of me. I’m meeting with the man who runs the summer school at some point in the next couple of weeks. If I can at least convince him of my theoretical worth, I’ll be one step closer to two weeks of teaching experience.

One of my goals this year is to read the Aeneid. I won’t be a Classics student, but even so, it is something which people make reference to regularly. I’m given to understand that passages from it are often the subject of GCSE and A-level examination. Therefore, in order not to appear ignorant, it will be much better to have read the blasted thing. I have one year to give myself, if not a background in the Classics, a substantial illusion of such a background.

Managed a 20-minute workout last night, though I used to do 40 minutes daily, so I’ll have to work up to that. Today I’m going to try to cram some Latin into my head, and go for another 20-minute workout.

New beginnings

Posted in Journal on September 24, 2013 by Azraphon

I first came to Birmingham in the summer of 2009, fresh from my undergraduate Philosophy (and Psychology) degree. I’d unexpectedly achieved a First, and was now headed to the glorious heights of postgraduate study. The University of Birmingham was a good university, with a good philosophy department, so I was very excited. I signed up to some student societies (an opportunity missing from Northampton when I attended, unless one happened to be a Christian or a member of a sports team), and even some out-of-uni groups. I went to evening seminars, I went to the pub with my classmates and tutors, all was well.

This did not last all year, sadly, as I rapidly came to think of myself as the weakest link, the pack omega. My philosophy tuition at Northampton had been primarily based in moral and political philosophy, and formal logic was not something we often encountered. Therefore I found myself floundering. People would make reference to terms and authors I did not know, and I felt very much as if I were not a small fish in a big pond, but algae accruing on the surface. This created some distance between me and my fellow philosophers, though it was no fault of theirs.

At the same time, I audited (that is, sat in on without being examined for) a module called Beginners’ Latin. A great opportunity for me, as I’d always had an inkling that I’d like to learn an ancient language. So I went along and rather enjoyed myself. I had a great teacher, I was part of a largely receptive class, and more importantly (and bafflingly), I was good at it. I picked up the grammar and basic syntax like a fish picks up swimming, and I flatter myself that I was one of the stronger students in the class.

When we returned from the winter vacation in January 2010, I received a pleasant surprise in the form of a high grade in my philosophy essay. A first, in fact. The only first in my group. I was dumbfounded, not least because I had lost all confidence in that area. Philosophy, however, was too late. I had the first of my three new loves: Latin.

My decision was already made. I’d stick with philosophy and get my MPhil. Hell, it was the reason I was in Birmingham and I’d paid for it. My next year, however, would be different. I would take a year out, work to save up some cash, and then return to the University of Birmingham to study ancient history. Thank my Latin teacher, and Tom Holland. I was all set.

Then I gained the second of my new loves: tabletop roleplay. I’d been a fan of a pair of computer games with the title Vampire: the Masquerade (Redemption first, then Bloodlines) since about 2004, and I later learned that they were based upon a pencil-and-paper game. Discovering that UoB had a roleplay society, I joined up. My first game was related to this interest, being Werewolf (same universe, different monster). I met some very good friends in that game; one whom I live with now, the other of whom I see at least weekly. In the third semester, I finally had the chance to play Vampire. It was during this game that I met the person who would become the third of my new loves, almost two years later.

Anyway. New beginnings.

That summer, I went to a Latin summer school, which I enjoyed very, vey much. I met some great people, only one of whom I am now in vague contact with. I finished my MPhil, passed (with corrections, but I passed), and went on to the world of work. The corrections for my MPhil terrified me; I had a less than pleasant viva experience, owing partially to an overly-hostile external examiner, and the corrections reminded me of that. I simply could not face them, even as the deadline loomed. Nevertheless, I had until September to make the corrections, and make them I did. But this was September 2011. The time of Ancient History!

What a year it promised to be. I was president of the tabletop gaming society, a member of Guild Council (it’s exactly as awesome as it sounds, and a hundred times more boring), and every time I left a lesson in Middle Egyptian (oh yes), I would immediately complete my homework, with full enthusiasm. My advanced Latin class was stimulating and at just the right level of challenge, and what’s more, my classmates were inclusive, friendly, and although they had more knowledge than I, I didn’t mind! I’d come from a different educational background; they’d all done classics degrees and so on, I hadn’t. I was ready for it. Ready, and determined to press on.

It began to unwind in November. A major relationship error had taken place, and I found myself suddenly single. The decision to end the relationship had been mine in the end, but that did not help one bit. I lost my focus, I found myself unable, on the worst mornings, to motivate myself to leave the house. I started missing lectures, skipping portions of my homework, even missing Guild Council meetings. That, combined with an inexplicable clash of personalities between me and the one other person in my advanced Latin class meant that no longer was anything motivating me.

I didn’t call out for the help of friends, I didn’t avail myself of counselling, or even admit to many people that anything was wrong. I wasted that entire year. I failed my exams, failed to attend resits, and failed to submit a dissertation. In the end, because I’d done well enough in the modules I had completed, the university awarded me with one of their lesser diplomas and sent me on my way.

The worst part of it all was that I could see it happening, almost from outside. Yet I didn’t feel motivated to change anything. I returned to the world of work, doing one dreary bills-paying job after the other.

I’m better now. It almost, almost, seems silly to me. It certainly seems stupid. I lost a year of my life to my own laziness, self pity and lack of initiative. On the other hand, I’m not angry. The time was spent, it was lost, and I gained little from it but a lesson.

It’s September 2013 now. It is the first day of the new term. Four years ago, I began a new, exciting adventure in Birmingham. The thing is, my adventure didn’t end how it should have. I can’t go back and change the ending, but I believe that I can write a sequel. In this sequel, he goes back to university, this time to complete his MA in ancient history. This time he makes sure he is the model scholar: studious, attentive, knowledgeable, and sociable. He did all of his university society stuff in the first few years, now he doesn’t need to! He has pleny of friends, and runs and plays in plenty of roleplaying games. Now he just needs to make friends among his fellow-scholars.

So that’s the plan. Re-invent myself, using the lessons I learned last time to avoid the same pitfalls this time.

The purpose of this journal is to record my progress. Readership or no readership, if I have to write it down then I am accountable to myself.

My goals are:

  • To get in better shape physically: mens sana in corpore sano
  • To brush up on my Latin so that I’m back in the game
  • To catch up with my reading on ancient history and the classics
  • To read more in general: “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone…”
  • To resume a long-abandonned meditation discipline which served me well in the past

With these goals in mind, I shall begin each future post with a rundown of the day’s activities. It’ll also be a general blog, but mostly I’m using it as an accountability device.

Wish me luck!

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