Thursday, 21 August 2014

Vampire: The Requiem - Actual Play chapter 1

On RPGnet...

NOBODY WANTS YOU - the game I ran before Blood And Smoke came out, thanks to Rose Bailey for sharing it in advance.


For the 2013-4 academic year, I had a chance to run a preview of Blood And Smoke: The Strix Chronicle, aka Vampire: The Requiem 2nd Edition, thanks to Rose Bailey. I got together a mix of players familiar with both World Of Darkness settings and new players. We had some early dropouts, so I’ll only detail the PCs who stuck around a while.

Pavel Kowalski (Mekhet, Lancea Et Sanctum) was a former police officer, turned as a “reward” for a decade as a ghoul helping to cover up the crimes of vampires. Over forty, divorced, out of shape. A lapsed Catholic in life, a believer due to what he’s seen after death. Also prone to prophetic dreams.

Arthur Tanner (Daeva, Circle Of The Crone) was a dabbler in the occult who found out a little more than he had wanted. Early thirties, slick and charming, but not as much as he thinks.

Dr. Leonard Barrow (Nosferatu, Ordo Dracul) was a haematologist whose findings were just a bit too interesting. Neat and clean, fastidious about his appearance... prone to bleeding around the nails and from the nose and mouth.

Valia Burns (Daeva, Carthian) was a resident of San Francisco seeking support for her holdings, notably a bar with a back room catering to vampires. Apparently a second-generation hippie, really one of the originals.

Also present:
Nicholas Jones (Ventrue, Invictus) - descendant of the Prince of Carson City with contacts in San Francisco due to his involvement with the Cacophony and keeping the Masquerade online.
Alex Merrison (Gangrel, Carthian) was a student at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And a mortal driver, whose name I have apparently not written down...

The initial setup (which was not the best way to try out systems like Touchstones) was that the city the PCs hailed from had gone dark after an attack by an unknown enemy, and due to a warning they were the last ones out, new arrivals in San Francisco. I stuck semi-closely to the published version, adding a not-quite-Prince to lead the Invictus, a Canon to serve in place of the sleeping Cardinal, a Mother for the Circle, and a few others to the roster of NPCs. This was mostly a chargen session, and then introductions. Some of them went more smoothly than others...




Jones receives a call. Julia, another of his brood.

“Get out. Get out now.”

He stares at the phone for a moment, shuts it off.


A blacked out van, dusty from the road. One human being at the wheel. Looking back nervously at the five vampires curled up and hidden under tarpaulins. He looks ahead at San Francisco, down at the address scrawled on a note, and then over at the setting sun. He stops and calls ahead as they enter the city limits. 

“Who is this Alvarez?” Arthur looks at the note.
“Officially, an editor at a small publishing company.” Jones shrugs.
“Doesn’t sound like the usual Princely kind of job.”
“Not a Prince. A... magistrate.”
“So who’s really in charge?”
“Ask Pavel.”
 “The Cardinal. He’s been here since before the city was called San Francisco. He’s actually your blood, though.” Pavel nods to Arthur, who wrinkles his nose with distaste.
“So. We go first thing?” Dr. Barrow asks quietly.
“Delaying is asking for trouble.” Arthur half smiles.


A small, purposely nondescript building. Home to Davison Farmer, Publishers. Pavel looks over the building, pauses at the stickers on the glass. A small clear sticker for a security company, marked with a red crown with a V in the centre. “This is the place.”

Even at this late hour, there’s someone in. An apparently young PA named Karen looks them over with a professional smile. “Go right up. Mr. Alvarez will see you right away.”

The head office is quite sizeable, lined with bookshelves. Titles with Davison Farmer publisher stamps on the spine dominate the shelves at eye level, many of them histories and photography collections for the city over the last century or more. One called “1906: From The Ashes” catches the eye.

A lean man in a dark suit, with a weathered face and slightly sallow complexion, sits behind a writing desk. On the visitors’ side are two chairs. Nicholas takes one. The others stand. Leonard peers at the books curiously, and stops himself pulling one off the shelf.

“So. Perhaps you could begin by telling me what happened? That you know.” 

They do their best to explain.

“My, ah, my sire told me to bring the car around, and when I got back... his bag was there. The door was open. And I couldn’t sense him.” Jones pauses, frowns. “So I drove to the rendezvous. No sign of him.” 

Alvarez studies them for a moment. He turns his eyes to Nicholas. “I am told that you are quite capable.” He looks across the others. “Can you say the same?”
“We can only offer what we can do,” Pavel replies.
“And we would be indebted to you,” Arthur adds.
“And do you expect more?”
“Maybe Julia. Henry. That’s probably it.” Jones shrugs.
“And will this come after you?”

They have no answer for that.

“Well, I appreciate your honesty there. I grant you leave to stay for one calendar month. After that time, we shall see. In the meantime, each of you has... relatives or fellow thinkers somewhere in the city. And do instruct your fellows to visit me here once they arrive. Business hours are until nine. The better to have someone here to deal with foreign inquiries. After that, I can be reached through my people. Also, And I shall be attending the symphony next Saturday. Charity function. Feel free to drop by. Best behaviour, of course.” He rises from his seat, and hands Jones a business card. “My executive assistant, Ms. Davison. Now, don’t go hungry. The Castro is the usual place to dine, Golden Gate Park, or Colma if you can stomach leftovers. And you’ll need somewhere to stay.”


“So what now?” Alex asks.
“We can always hide in the sewers...” Dr. Barrow suggests.
“Not exactly ideal.” Arthur brushes imaginary lint off his collar.
“And we need to know what happened back there.” Pavel grimaces.
“If not for us... we need to tell Alvarez something.”
“I’ll find us somewhere to stay.” Jones opens up his laptop. “Other than the sewers.”


Jones looks up at a student apartment near the park. “It’s not much. But it’s better than tarpaulins in the back of a van.”

Dr. Barrow pockets his smartphone. “Apparently something like this happened in New Mexico. The Order sent a group in to look after six months. They found nothing. Although they didn’t want to sleep in the city.” 

Pavel massages his brow. “I woke during the day. Something about... a cave...”

Jones spins the apartment keys around on his finger. “So we agree to work together, at least until we know what happened?”

Alex looks around the apartment, shakes his head and leaves. He steps into a shadow and a lean mongrel dog pads out.

“One down.” Arthur steps back out. “And I should try to find the Circle and then go... get a bite.”


Dr. Barrow opens the manhole in the apartment’s parking lot and climbs down. He follows a trail of dead rats to a junction in the storm sewers.


He turns to see a hunched figure behind him. In a grimy dark hoodie and shapeless jogging clothes, only the voice suggests it might be female.

“You’re one of us... but you’re not one of the Mother’s.”
“I came from Carson City.”
“What for?”
“Running away.
“We get that sometimes. Usually from Loss.”
“What have you lost?”
“No, that’s his name. Leave him alone.”
“Oh. I’m Leonard.”
“Sal. How many more?”
“Four. Not like us.”
“Lucky them.”

She steps back into a shadow and vanishes.

Dr. Barrow reconsiders sleeping there that day.


Pavel takes a cab to the Mission district, to the old Mission Delores itself. He can feel someone watching. He gets back inside, suspicions confirmed...


Arthur pulls a flier off a telegraph pole. A pagan religious group. With some specific symbols in the background.


Jones receives a message from Julia. “Coming in at midnight. Henry and Kay.” He leaves a reply. “I’ll make arrangements.” He retrieves a Davison Farmer business card.


Moving through a row of clubs not far from Stanford, Arthur finds someone easily impressed in the first, and the third, and more vampires in the fourth.

A young couple, on either side of a now rather tired looking young man in a booth. They stop and look up, eyes following him as he passes. He nods to the couple in passing, the male tilts his head, and the female returns to licking the young man’s throat. The male still has an eye on Arthur as he leans over to kiss her, a drop of red falling from her lip onto his chin.

Heading out, Arthur pauses at an alley, sees a pair of eyes reflect the lights of a passing car. He crosses the street, looks back, turns around - sees another vampire standing in his way. Tall and lean, collar of a black coat pulled up against the wind, dark hair shaved short against his scalp.


He grabs Arthur’s collar and effortlessly pulls him into the darkness of the alley...

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