This is about the fifth time I've told this online, and this time I'm going to keep what I wrote somewhere so I can just cut-n-paste it next time.
I'm an avid pen-and-paper role-playing gamer. Original D&D, a bunch of different supers games, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, what-have-you. At college, I joined the local game club and was introduced to Vampire the Masquerade. All the "popular" gamers were playing. And I was bored. It was dull and the players were pretentious. Eventually, I made my way to various game conventions (Origins, Marcon, GenCon, and various local conventions around the Cincinnati/Dayton/Columbus area) and each time I'd see these people running around in full goth gear with their arms crossed. After asking what the hell was going on, I discovered they were playing Vampire as a LARP. Alright, I'd give it a try. I'm told to go make a character. So I do, I guess. I grab a book and fill in some circles and then I'm done and hand in my character. And then I'm told to go play. But I don't know how. And no one is about to teach me. So fuck it, a half-hour wasted trying to come up with a character and another hour spent trying to get people who have their arms crossed and their mouths closed to talk to me.
Through observation at a few conventions, and a couple additional cracks at the rulebook, I twig to what's going on and what needs to be done. I locate a Vampire LARP that takes place weekly in downtown Cincinnati at a Goth Club, which happens to be a male strip joint on the weekends. I pal up with some guy I had started hanging out with who I met at the comic store, and I give it one more go. Nope. the Vampire LARP thing isn't happening. The comic guy knows some people, but he's really not helping out with the game and I'm just not getting into it. Everyone is too into themselves and being their own outsiders to actually let an outsider play.
So, out of college now, I get on the internets and various other means, and advertise to start a local role-playing game. I get some responses and 4 very nice players, and after a few one-shot game sessions, we agree to play a modern super-hero setting for a campaign. We make up characters (MEGS / DC HEROES) and the next game session, everyone will drop by and I'll make it all work.
That's the toughest part about being a GM; the first adventure. You all meet in a bar. You all have to solve the same crisis simultaneously. I call bullshit. Super-hero team-ups should feel natural. So here's what I got:
- An amnesiac background who thinks he's some sort of Green Lantern.
- A mutant who made a name for himself saving a schoolbus with his telekinetic and psychic powers.
- Another mutant who has showy shadow powers who wants to make a name for himself.
- A world-famous witchy-sorceress, "Morganna, Mistress of the Night"; Elvira meets Zatanna.
I decide to base the team-up adventure around a crisis at a public appearance of Morganna's; specifically, her being a "guest of honor" at ConCON XXVI. Yep; placed it at a game convention. Long story short (I can dictate the adventure for you in a later post), after a couple of blatant red herrings, the "antagonists" end up being the people in charge of the Vampire LARP and "White Wolf" in general; turns out they really are vampires and their appearances at game conventions are "round-ups" to get faithful servants and meals. I mean, who'd miss a few gamers?
The heroes take down the mob, but the big baddies get away. And it was getting late and we had to stop for the night. So that's when it hits me. I make some arbitrary rolls for ideas, clues, etc. Then I inform the group that we'll meet outside the Vampire LARP later that week, a half hour after it starts. I told them to... dress as your super-hero character, if he or she was dressed as a Vampire LARPer.
I dress up in a full purple/gray tweed pimp outfit that I snagged for a "Pimps n Hos" party from the prior year. At the established time, everyone shows up except one guy, but that's fine. Outside the club, everyone is dressed up nicely; dark and spooky. "Morganna" is sluttified to the max (and she's hot, normally), "Psychic Dave" is wearing leather studs and a maroon snap-button shirt with a black t-shirt and black jeans, and "Shadowman" (Morganna's husband) is in a dark trench and hat with black shirt underneath and black pants.
I explain that tonight, I am still their GM, no matter what goes on inside the club. They will be playing AS their super characters. None of their characters ever had experience with the game except Morganna, and her only in a passing sense. We are here investigating leads into the actual-Vampires-posing-as-LARPers case. Our goal for the night is to get into a back room of the club that I knew physically existed, and that all the Vampire gamers seemed to be able to "get to", but only if you were really high on the gaming totem pole. Meaning, if you weren't in "the clique, you weren't getting in". Once we get in there, I'll call time and we'll decide what to do then.
"From this moment onwards," I say, "I will take the role of 'Jimmy'" a "Jimmy Olsen" gamer NPC they befriended in the prior game. A "sidekick" if you will, who is supposedly the most "experienced" player. And yet, all three of these people played a hell of a lot more Vampire than I ever had, did, or will.
I explain (as Jimmy) that we'll all be playing Malkavians, the "crazy clan" and we're first time-gamers from out of town; say Atlanta, looking for some "hot gaming action". Shadowman tells me that we're better off just saying we're college students from a somewhat out-of-town university, probably Miami (Ohio) and amateur Vampire LARPers. I frown (in-character) and say "fine!" and mentally give Shadowman some bonus XP.
I pay everyone's $5 entry fee and we're in. We meet up with the GM and everyone lets me handle it. I explain that we're malks and looking for some hot.. get interrupted by Shadowman who takes over with the background he proposed earlier. (more XP for shadowman). We fill in our characters; I'm a pimp, Morganna's my ho, Shadowman is my enforcer, and "Psychic Dave" who is using his TK on the dice (roll 2d10.. success; XP for RP, XP for attempt, XP), is my druggie/cohort/#2.
We lurk around the club and chat up various gamers. I listen in to the conversations and I hear Morganna trying to find "real" vampires (XP++). "Psychic Dave" gets Shadowman to rough someone up (rock-papers-scissors!) and eventually, we charm our way towards the back room.
On the way there, we're accosted by some frumpy guy in gray. Not all dressed up or anything; more like half-assed goth college student outfit. He looks at us and smiles. "I heard, but I didn't know it was true! Malkavians! I have an actual clan!!!!!!!!"
For those of you who don't know, Malkavians in Vampire are like, umm, Kender in Dragonlance, for lack of a better analogy. Played right, they're downright evil, but in general they're (dis)regarded as "that annoying goofy shit group". Which, us "being" Malks, would certainly account for any weird activity.
So this guy. This poor sap. I feel for him. All alone. Gaming by himself; a clan of one. And then suddenly he has 4 instant-friends. Then-again, he has 4 instant-friends he, as a high-level malk, can "push around". So instead of getting anywhere on his bad side, I tell him some people were looking for him outside (where the Werewolf players were hanging out, no seriously; no werewolves allowed inside!), so he goes. *whew*
We get to the back where some sort of huge Prince shit is going down. And this short fat girl is trying to push through our group screaming "Majesty, majesty" and waving her hand in front of her face; I think it's a magic Vampire power, but she just looked ridiculous. And she was rude. No "excuse me", just shove shove shove through us. So we mocked her. Openly. She looked annoyed.
So we sit back in the back room and watch the group chat and Shadowman presents a list of names and likely vampires and he says Morganna and Psychic Dave have added to the list... it's long. (XP XP XP) We've been there all of 4 hours now, goofing around and having fun, but it's a work night and it's late, which is enough for all of us. So I round us up and say "Follow me" and I walk right up to the vampire meeting. And listen in close. Close... close... I'm right up to the prince. And I see what they're doing.
It's about 12 people, half with their arms crossed, surrounding 4 people who are all playing rock-paper-scissors and debating rules. Nothing ground-breaking here at all. Just mindless. MINDLESS. Where's the ROLE in ROLE-playing? This was the big fun I was trying to get to months earlier? Forget it.
At this point I yell "Time out! OK, XP time!" and start openly allocating experience to my players, "You get 30 Hero Points for this, you get 25 Hero Points for that..." right then and there.
The LARPers are puzzled. And watch.
Then I'm all, "you guys want to hang out?" to my players. "No, we're good". OK, let's go. Psychic Dave turns and says "One more thing..." then he rips open his button-snap shirt and on his black t-shirt, he must have done it in white-out, but on his black t-shirt is a huge stylized "PD" and he hollers "Psychic Dave to the Rescue!!!" and we walk out of there never to come back.
Coda: Several months later, I'm in a bar at a CON relating this story and one listener eyes light up and he says, "That was you??!!! I was so happy to have a clan and you guys were gone!" It was my malkavian friend. A really nice guy. He and I became friends and we played a few Pen-n-Paper Cthulhu with him since. Neither he nor I had been back to the Vamprie LARP since that night.
edit And yes, I know it's Hero Points/HP not XP in MEGS, thanks. "XP" flows better when telling the story.
Spoiler'd to save space.