Only one? I’ve played so many…. (especially as Storyteller). If I choose just one, all the others will be jealous. And does this mean as a player character (protagonist role) or non-player character (supporting or adversarial role)?
Well. We’ll go with someone who was a little bit of both…
Francesco Dantini, Clan Lasombra – A Priest Forever
Born in the 12th century, the second son of a nobleman of Pavia, there was never any question that Francesco would go into the church. He was never athletic or of strong constitution, but he soaked up learning and books like a sponge. In the monastery, his intellectual gifts and inquisitive nature were nurtured and honed; he was ordained into the priesthood, and sent to serve one of the foremost princes of the Church, the Archbishop of Milan. He never questioned his fate, his vows, or his faith…
Until one night, in the library, he met a beautiful and mysterious angel; the Lady Alianora dell’Aquila, whose mind was nearly the equal of his own, and whose dark eyes and seductive smile quickly turned his head and his vows upside down. He became her companion, teacher, and servant in Blood. Offered the Embrace as an alternative to dying from a wasting fever a few years later, and fearing the judgment of God for all his sins, Francesco accepted, and found himself a son of Caine, and a member of Clan Lasombra.
Unfortunately for Francesco, Alianora’s own sire, Gaius Aquilaeus, Prince of Milan, had in his mortal days served under the Emperor Diocletian, and his foremost task had been the persecution and torture of Christians – and he saw in Francesco all he had ever despised about that ‘new’ religion. As Francesco struggled to come to terms with his new existence, Gaius did all he could to break him, force him over the edge into the Beast, and prove that his God had deserted him. But in the midst of his despair and soul-wrenching anguish, two things gave Francesco strength to endure all that Gaius tried to do. The first was Alianora’s blood, a protective measure she took against Gaius doing the same and having even more power over Francesco’s vulnerable soul. The second, however, was even more powerful: Francesco re-discovered his own faith. Like the Christians of the 2nd century, the more he was forced to endure, the more his trust in God’s power and mercy grew. Eventually he was able to prove himself useful, particularly in dealing with other clans who valued scholarship and analytical ability, so that even Gaius had to admit that he at least earned his keep.
As of 1490 (the time of The Dragon’s Masque), now serving under a different Prince, Francesco is well known and respected among the Cainites of Milan, although he is rarely at court or social gatherings. He has a reputation among certain Cainite circles as a scholar and theologian. Using mortal secretaries (as his own left-handed scrawl is all but illegible), he corresponds with numerous other Cainites of a similar bent throughout Europe, and has written works on theology and Cainite society and Traditions – and even some small treatises on politics – from his monk’s cell at the monastery at Santa Maria delle Grazie. He is more than willing to extend the comforts and sacraments of the Church to any of Caine’s blood who desire them, and holds a midnight Mass once a week for all who wish to come. In one matter only does he follow the fervor of his adopted Dominican Order – Francesco will not tolerate any who practice the Cainite Heresy within Milan, and is now more than capable of dealing with any who try to establish it. He remains close to his family (it is rumored that he is bloodbound to his Sire), and despite long discussions on the subject of theology and his own deep faith, one of his closest friends, his sire’s consort Jovan Ruthven, remains a staunch pagan.
Francesco started out as a minor supporting NPC—but during the events of The Dragon’s Masque, he quickly became a pivotal character when he befriended the visiting Tremere, Etienne de Vaillant. In Etienne, Francesco found a fellow philosopher and theologian – and a friend. As the investigation into the Tremere matters continued, they shared insights, dangers, secrets, and finally blood. Their friendship only grew deeper over the years, even when they ended up on opposite sides of the Camarilla/Shadow Alliance war. Unfortunately, in addition to the battles raging between their factions, there were other forces at work over which they had no control. In the late 1500s, Francesco was betrayed and captured by the Inquisition, and after arguing theology with his captors for most of the night, was condemned and staked out for the sun. His Final Death set in motion a chain of events that were not fully resolved for nearly four hundred years…
Sire: Alianora dell’ Aquila
Astrological Sign: Virgo
Apparent Age: 40s
Road: Road of Heaven 8
Appearance: Francesco is tall for his time (about six feet), lean and bony. His looks are distinctive, but not handsome; his face is long, gaunt, and dominated by a beak of a nose, and he has dark, expressive eyes. His hair is dark brown, with some silvering, and cut short, with a priest’s tonsure. He wears the white robes and black cope and hood of the Dominican Order. Generally quiet and soft-spoken, he nonetheless has a deep and passionate nature; once started, he can talk for hours on theology, and a wide variety of other academic subjects, and is also one of the most competitive chess players in Milan.
What made him fun:
The Dragon’s Masque was a one-player chronicle. Sarah actually ran two PCs (Etienne and Antonio, both Tremere), who were set up to conflict with one another as often as they worked together (which meant sometimes she was arguing with herself and I was crunching popcorn). But as it happened, Francesco turned out to be the perfect foil and co-conspirator for Etienne. Francesco was the Milanese “insider” who had his own reasons for helping the visiting Tremere investigators, but whose close connection to the most likely suspect in the case made his interests suspicious as well (particularly to Antonio). In particular, he hit Etienne’s faith-and-theology buttons just right, and offered the lonely Tremere something he hadn’t had in decades – a chance to connect to someone who understood and sympathized with his crisis of faith, even though Etienne could not accept some of Francesco’s arguments and beliefs. For Etienne’s own story arc, it couldn’t have worked out better; and for Francesco, who had been a somewhat nebulous character before the chronicle began, those scenes discussing Cainite theology with Etienne (and of course, discussing the mystery at hand) were what solidified his character and personality. And though we didn’t exactly plan it that way, the events of that story, and the relationship between Francesco and Etienne, because one of the underlying pillars of the much longer chronicle, extending over centuries, and even having an impact on the events of Heart of Darkness (particularly in the relationship between Etienne and Marius dell’Aquila—Francesco’s proud and hot-headed younger sibling.)