Monday, April 19, 2010

GM versus Players, Round 3

Rolling along  . . .
Let’s finish this mini-series, shall we?
Last time we discussed ‘coolness’ – now let’s focus on the concept of power.

D&D, and its clones, really hammer home the concept of power and acquisition. Levels are gained and their accumulation determines the power a character is capable of. Running parallel to level advancement is the attainment of magical items.
Again, these things are inherent to D&D and I imagine a lot of people, including myself, would argue these basic concepts, along with killing monsters, make D&D the great game it is.
Vampire operates differently.
Experience is gained, but its value is not seen through level advancement. The acquisition of power comes much slower instead. Points are spent to advance traits, skills, attributes, disciplines, etc.
Items are different too. Not many +2 Longswords floating around in the World of Darkness – guns, cars, businesses, other items, sure.
My player’s are the classic D&D ‘type;’ they love gaining levels and items. These benchmarks provide a feeling of accomplishment and success. When a player goes up a level and finds that ring of invisibility in the dragon’s loot, he knows he’s done well. He has achieved something for the way he has played his character.
The key, then, is to port this sense of accomplishment over to Vampire.
Power – Vampires are physical specimens, can take a bullet or two, and possess unique super powers (Disciplines). So . . . technically they are powerful. However, the World of Darkness is full of creatures as powerful and many that are more so. Whereas D&D is setup for the players to fight foes they can constantly conquer, Vampire is an open sandbox in which the PCs are thrown to the sharks. There are no kobolds walking around, no clear delineations as to which beings are weaker than the PCs.
Except for the common mortal. One way to give my players a sense of strength is to really play up the hunts and their interactions with mortals. In other words, mortals are a great place to blow off some steam. Let them crush weak human wills with dominate and majesty. Let them savage gangs, cops, whomever with celerity and vigor. Against most mortals, vampires are unstoppable monsters. This is the ONE PLACE your vampire players can really cut loose . . . let them. (Though it doesn’t hurt to occasionally throw in a lupine or hunter . . .)
The other key is making other power feel like D&D power. Political power, financial power, allies, wits, make all of these things contribute visibly to a player’s success. Train your players to understand that these fields of the game are in many ways like magical power, to hit bonus, and AC in D&D. They are fundamental to cementing your character as a powerhouse.
This last thought ties into the whole need to conquer concept from our graphic two posts ago. While the PCs will feel like they are gaining things from XP, the amount is going to pale in comparison to the average D&D game. Knowing this, I intend to play up things like haven, status, and contacts – more ethereal concepts, but conquered bits in their own right.
I feel the key here will be making sure my players are overcoming something to gain something. The Ventrue dominates the human – the human owns a clothing store – the Ventrue now has access to the cutting edge of men’s fashion . . . the Nosferatu gets his hands on the Primogen’s business ledger, he blackmails the Primogen to blood bind his rival, etc and so on.
Boiling all this down – Just make sure player’s feel like they are accomplishing something and being rewarded. Yes, the rewards are more esoteric, but if you give them value, a fundamental, positive effect on the game world (just like that +2 longsword does) I think the player will grok the sense of accomplishment and realize what established the reward.
I want to get into the details of my WoD campaign and talk about some other RPG things I’ve got going on. I hope this series made a little bit of sense or helped someone a bit . . . either way it was useful for me to write this all down.

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