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).
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.
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…
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.
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.
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*…).
We don’t use backgrounds as strictly written in the books (we do very little exactly as written in the books, and the books say we’re allowed to do exactly that). But backgrounds are very important when creating characters—whether that character is a spur-of-the-moment NPC, a carefully detailed adversary, or a player character.
We just don’t worry about the dot values as much.
That being said, the most important and vital background (which has multiple equivalents in the rules, depending on which approach you take) is: Connections. This really encompasses all the various official Backgrounds on the character sheet, but it may be a different way of looking at them. Because what matters isn’t the dots one has in Mentor, Ally, Status, Domain, Retainer, etc. What matters are the connections that trait represents, and how they can be used to draw the character into a story where those connections are relevant and mean something.
I have to say…. Mages. The rules for Mage: the Ascension (as I recall them, I don’t own the book) seemed to be as far from anything like traditional magic (or even D&D magic) as one could get. The intention as I understand it was to get away from the limited spellcasting rules of D&D type games and give players some real freedom and creativity with casting spells, which to be fair, it did. But magic is always easier to create consistently in fiction than in a game. Magic is hard to quantify, reduce to mathematical formulas, statistics and clearly defined levels of skill and accomplishment. Within the context of a Mage chronicle, it probably worked fine. But it made them almost impossible to use in crossover—mages always seemed way overpowered compared to vampires, and the whole cosmology didn’t seem to match up.
I know there are a lot of Mage fans out there, but it just never clicked with me at all.
I did like the Mage: the Awakening system – but I’d still hate to try using it in crossover. (Though it was fun to let Regina fry Loki’s ass when he tried to ambush her in Three Shades of Night. Stupid punk vampire. Shoulda known better…..)
But anyway. If I have a least favorite, the Mages would be it.
(Okay, the Exalted come in pretty high on the scale, too, but that’s an entirely different world and game system).
Personally, I blame Dan Curtis and Jonathan Frid. Because Mr. Curtis created the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, which introduced the brooding, haunted, and sexy vampire monster-turned-melancholy-hero Barnabas Collins, played so well by Mr. Frid. That was my first introduction to the vampire. Now the show is very dated to my adult eyes, but to me as an impressionable young teen, it was utterly enthralling. (Yes, I really am that old. And yes, I wrote fan fiction. Thank you, M. Katherine Davis for encouraging me and sharing in my insanity.) I also read Dracula in high school. And watched The Fearless Vampire Killers at slumber parties. My friends and I were weird that way.
The definition of Methuselah (in terms of the Vampire: the Masquerade universe) is either a vampire of the 4th or 5th generation, or one that has attained a millennium or more in age. In other words, a vampire old enough to predate both the sects, and to pretty much do what he or she damn well pleases. Such vampires are exceedingly rare, their predator’s nature being what it is—they have a tendency to kill each other off long before reaching such august age. Which means those that do survive are very, very smart, exceedingly ruthless, and exceptionally good at… surviving.
Player characters who tangle with one, or thwart such an ancient being’s will, should keep that in mind.
My favorite of the published methuselahs (outside of the cast of Lair of the Hidden, that is) was Marcus Vitel. Not quite as he was written—but smarter, more ruthless, and definitely not a prince one would want to cross. But there was another who really has to be my favorite, and he’s not in any of the books.