Thursday, 21 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 21: Harpies And Social Games

As well as human society, Vampire characters have to deal with their own. And their own society is not a healthy one.

“These people terrify me, but I am one of them. If they stab me in the back, then at least that is the judgement of my peers.” 
John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy

The closest we see to Harpies in Vampire’s direct inspirations is probably Anne Rice’s Théâtre Des Vampires - a massive gang of them who spend their time kowtowing to their leader and smirking disapprovingly at the visitors as they look for an excuse to tear them down. They also owe a fair bit to Les Liaisons Dangereuses, where two courtiers in pre-Revolutionary France compete to ruin lives and reputations as sport.

The Camarilla court structure is essentially feudal, but the Harpies tend to be more Georgian - and also rather high school. I can easily imagine archetypal Harpy Annabelle as an escapee from Austen, snapping open her fan and gesturing with it just so.

The first example group of Harpies was Annabelle’s Party Elite in Chicago By Night 1, who were all individual characters and generally pretty interesting. Some are the classic posh dilettantes, others don’t fit the Harpy mould but have fallen into Annabelle’s orbit for the time being anyway. It’s easy to make a mass of Harpies, but a few coteries, cliques and factions around the court will give you a bit more to play with. Include schemers and idealists, snobs and charmers. Have some sympathetic ears and some utter bastards. Throw in a former musketeer who can cut you down with a blade as well as his wit, or an Obfuscating expert in going unnoticed and picking up the most delightful secrets.

And you might have social courtly PCs as well. These tend to appear in games with a large player base, like LARPs and chats, but a tabletop game focused around social one-upmanship could be very interesting. Check out Succubus Club: Dead Man’s Party and Invite Only for supplements all about the social whirl.

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