8. Starbucks and Spies

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, TX June 20th, 2004

Another night, another red-eye flight.

Diane stifled a yawn and tried to get more comfortable in her seat—TJ had won the toss for the window on this leg of the trip, and was already out for the count. Just once, she wished they could find a cheap flight that didn’t turn her sleeping schedule upside down. But she wasn’t paying for the tickets, so it wasn’t as though she had much room to complain.

“The Atlanta connection was a bit cheaper,” she overheard Charles telling Copperfield, in the seats behind them. “But a two hour layover—I didn’t think that would be a good idea.” Then he dropped into French. “Vous ne savez jamais qui pourrait être regarder.”

You never know who might be watching. It was amazing how well her high-school French still held up.

Oui, je suis d’accord,” Copperfield replied. Even to her ear, his pronunciation sounded perfect. “Yes, I agree. Chicago’s much safer. With any luck, they’ll never know we were there.”

Diane wasn’t sure who “they” were, or why a two hour layover in O’Hare was somehow safer than one in Atlanta. One airport was really much like another when it came to that, wasn’t it? Long terminals, long walks from one gate to another, and at that hour, they’d be lucky if anything was even open.

Then she remembered a dark-eyed stranger standing in the hallway outside their hotel rooms, and she felt a chill that had nothing to do with the air-conditioning on the plane. At least Charles and Mr. Copperfield were with them. Was their arrival what had driven the stranger away?

And what had that all been about, anyway? How could anyone suspect Charles of stealing from a museum? He’d purchased the jar from an estate sale, she’d filed the paperwork for him. He hadn’t even used University money.

Charles had told them it was just a misunderstanding. That they’d talked to the night manager and handed the deluded bellhop over to hotel security. There was no FBI, just a silly prank that had gone wrong when the bellhop misread his room slip. The hotel management had been extremely apologetic, and had even removed the cost of last night’s hotel room and their meals for the day off the bill.

But that guy in the hallway… maybe he wasn’t FBI, but he had been real. And he hadn’t come across as the pranking kind.

Diane was very glad they were leaving Houston, even if it meant traveling overnight again, through Chicago to Baltimore. At least it felt like they were on the trail of something interesting, if they did get to see the Qebehsenuef jar. And if it had the strange writing as the Hapi jar that Charles had in his carry-on bag, that really would be a discovery. Would the writing be the same? Or different? Maybe they could even find the rest of the set, and track down how the pieces had been separated, and what the strange characters meant. She might even consider changing the topic of her dissertation, with such a fascinating find to research. Continue reading

7. Sowing Confusion

Houston, Texas – June 20th, 2004

“Keep an eye on this fellow for a moment, would you?” Copperfield asked, when Charles came back from escorting his young grad assistants off to their well-earned rest. “I’m curious to see if there really was an order from room 624.”

“Right—“ Charles agreed, and stood where he could give their unfortunate captive his very sternest gaze. But being realistic about his ability to intimidate with his gaze alone, he also kept the sword in his hand and clearly visible.

Copperfield held the receipt in one hand and tapped in the room number. “Yes, this is the kitchen,” he said, when the occupant in 624 picked up, his voice picking up a very genuine French accent, “Pardon the intrusion, but did you place an order—“

Charles could hear the outrage sputtering out over the phone without even trying to listen.

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6. Room Service Done Wrong

Houston, Texas — June 19, 2004

“Oh, cool,” TJ said, playing with the TV remote. “The new Tomb Raider movie’s on pay-per-view.”

Diane looked up from her book.  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said at last.  “That is SO not real archaeology…”

“Of course not,” TJ said.  “Nobody makes a movie about real archaeology.  If there aren’t curses and traps and magical artifacts and shit, nobody would watch it.“

“Not to mention guns and boobs,” Diane said sourly. “You’re not really going to put that on Charles’ credit card, are you?”

“I’ll pay him back,” TJ said. “Chill out, will you?  It’s just a movie. You want to pick something else?”

“No, I was about to go to bed anyway, soon as I finished this chapter.  Which I can do in the bedroom.  Rot your brain if you want, just don’t cite Lara Croft in your footnotes.”

TJ chuckled.  “That’s an idea—at least then I’d know if my advisor was actually reading my footnotes—“

Diane rolled her eyes, took her book and notecards back into the bedroom and shut the door.

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Day 29 – Favorite Supplement

There are different kinds of supplements (“supplement” essentially meaning any game-specific resource book that isn’t the core rule book). In the case of Vampire, those are: Setting/scenario books; Player/Storyteller guides; Other non-setting-specific resources; “splat” books (Clans, Covenants and Roads), and tie-in fiction (clan novels, etc.).

I’ve worked on all kinds of supplements (and main rule books too). I am not a rules person, so I always tended towards the history/background/setting/story development side of things. I like figuring out the whys and wheres, hows and what-happens-next. I like providing story hooks at any possible corner. I like interesting characters who can be both a potential asset to a story, or a potential obstacle (depending on the story and how the characters deal with that NPC). I like doing the research for a setting/scenario book (I am sorry we never got to do Dark Ages: Italy).

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Day 28 – A character you will never play ever again

This was one of the more difficult ones to answer, because not even Final Death is really enough to totally take a character out of the lineup. We could always do a flashback, if there’s a past episode that just calls out to be RP’d instead of summarized in text. We’ve done quite a few flashback vignettes when the story called for them. When your main characters are centuries old, that means they have a LOT of past, and while we’ve played through important parts of it (where the characters’ stories crossed paths), there’s a lot more we haven’t covered. And you never know who might show up.

But there are some characters whose story was more finite. They were important when they appeared, but their role in the main characters’ stories was what it was, and no more. And some of them met their Final Deaths, either in the story they appeared in, or at some historical point thereafter.

Because that’s what NPCs do.

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Day 27 – A character you want to play in the future

There are two ways to interpret this particular topic. Who would be a specific character (ie, someone I’ve already got at least half-created in the character bullpen) I would like to play in a future storyline in our long-running chronicle…


Who/what might be an interesting character concept that I’ve never created an actual character for but would be fun to play in some future storyline…

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Day 26 – Favorite Discipline

Well, I do like them all (all the main clan disciplines anyway—I start drawing the line at some of the weird tricks some of the rare-to-nonexistent bloodlines pull). The one Discipline I tend to always make sure my characters have, at least some of, is Auspex—because it never hurts to have those enhanced senses and a bit of extra-sensory talent available for a dark and rainy night.

But it’s not the one that’s the most fun. That one would be Protean.

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5. ‘Real’ Art Opens Doors

Houston, Texas – June 19th, 2004

As a Kindred diplomat and negotiator of many years’ standing, Etienne de Vaillant had more than a passing familiarity with the biased nature of vampire politics in general and Toreador clan snobbishness in particular. He had made three attempts—two of them before Dr. Hewitt and his fascinating artifact had even arrived—to contact Ms. Laeticia Robicheaux, the childe of his late friend and client Colonel Beauregard Litton. But to her secretary’s deepest and sincerest-sounding chagrin, Miss Robicheaux was always regretfully unavailable for any appointment whatsoever with Mr. Copperfield of Tremere. She was out, or taking another call, or simply ‘not receiving this week.’

One might think that for Dr. Hewitt of Ventrue she’d be terribly busy washing her hair or something, but no—one call and he was on her schedule. Never mind that Stephen Copperfield of Tremere had been one of Colonel Beau Litton’s oldest business associates, and Hewitt was a merely a visiting Kindred professor from the other side of the country she’d likely never even heard of before.

But Hewitt was Ventrue, a member of the clan of bankers, businessmen, aristocrats and princes. And Etienne was Tremere—a clan whose mysterious powers of blood sorcery and secretive ways had never put them at the top of anyone’s social call list. True, he probably could have pulled rank, used his real name and title to force a meeting, but there were equal disadvantages in revealing his true identity and age in a city where he knew nothing of the political dynamics and how his presence, if known, might set them all askew. Especially since he hadn’t even revealed that identity to Hewitt as yet. So as much as it galled him to be treated like an unwelcome salesman at the door, retaining his anonymity and accepting the advantage of Hewitt’s Ventrue heritage was—at least for now—the more prudent course.

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Day 25 – Favorite McGuffin

In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is an object, place or person. However, a MacGuffin can sometimes take a more abstract form, such as money, victory, glory, survival, power, love, or even something that is entirely unexplained, as long as it strongly motivates key characters within the structure of the plot.


McGuffins are useful in RPGs; it helps sometimes to have a physical (okay, virtual physical) representation of a goal for the players to focus on. It can be an item they already have but are trying to identify; it can be an item they are trying to protect; or it can be one they are trying to locate or obtain (legally or otherwise).

Usually it is not the end goal—merely a step along the way—but it does help to have something distinct and concrete to get a story moving. It doesn’t even have to be an object; it can also be information or another non-physical but important goal of some kind.

Our favorite McGuffin has usually been: Noddist relics. Or anything that even hints that it might be a historical artifact that specifically refers to or contains some element of evidence regarding the murky, mythical past of the Kindred themselves, especially if it dates back before recorded history (or at least, back before the Current Era, when years were recorded in negative numbers*…).

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