There’s several reoccurring locations in Baltimore (and nearby) that characters tend to return to, where they can meet other Kindred, and where Things Happen. But this is one of our favorites.
Baltimore is a city divided, inhabited by the Camarilla (both survivors from the past and new arrivals), the Sabbat, and a larger-than-usual number of anarch gangs. There’s likely some crossover between the anarchs and Sabbat (the Camarilla elders don’t seem to distinguish them in any case). There is a Brujah prince who seems on better terms with the anarchs than he is with the primogen of the other Camarilla clans, especially since the Toreador and Ventrue elders are certain he’s really been in league with the Sabbat all along.
Rumors in other cities tell of battles on the streets every night, of blood-feuds and raids and mortals caught in a terrible undead turf war, that the maintenance of a real Elysium in such a city is impossible. The rumors are, however, more than a little exaggerated. And that Elysium does exist—at least, so far.
It also happens to be one of the hottest new nightclubs in town, a short walk from the tourist traps of Harbor Place, and the hotels and restaurants around the Convention Center. Its name is The Inferno.
“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
— Dante, The Divine Comedy
The Inferno takes up an entire large brick warehouse, four stories high. The nightclub itself takes up the front two thirds, its multiple levels looking down on an open central core, with an ample stage and checkerboard dance floor. Around the sides of the main floor, and on the mezzanine and balcony levels above, are plenty of tables, with food stations and bars conveniently located on all levels. Live bands perform here, at least twice a week, and it’s a popular ‘hot spot’ for young people out on the town to come. The interior décor is a creative blend of gothic traditions—that is, medieval gothic crossed with industrial goth, featuring carved stone arches and pillars , leering gargoyles, skulls, and images and quotes from Dante’s Divine Comedy, along with bare steel beams, hanging chains, and wrought-iron railings on stairs and balconies. Colors are greys, blacks and splashes of reds, with lighting that leaves plenty of shadowed alcoves, and a dance floor that occasionally features random mists from the fog machine under the stage. Bartenders and wait-staff are encouraged to wear costumes, from little horns to full red-sequined diablo, and some of the patrons do so as well (especially on weekends and Goth Night). The general ambiance is mysterious and edgy, with a slight chill of creepy—just enough to give some added thrill to the night, and encourage patrons to come back again. As far as most of its patrons know, that’s all it is—a fun, slightly spooky, offbeat place for drinks, dancing and music.
There’s also the “members only” lounge up above it all—though membership seems to be limited to a very select few. Those same ‘members’ also get to use the side entrance, and never have to wait in line out front. Inquiries into ‘membership’ get politely shunted aside; it’s apparently very exclusive and there are never any new openings. Most never think of it that much—or, after they’ve inquired more than common curiosity might excuse, never think of it again.
Behind the scenes, The Inferno is run and co-owned by three Kindred of different clans, in a serious attempt to create a modern Elysium in a city that hasn’t had such a place in decades. The owners are J. W. Treach III, a Ventrue millionaire, socialite, and would-be political powerbroker; Mr. Sharpe, a Brujah entrepreneur and businessman, trying to establish himself as an independent operation from the Prince’s organization he used to work for; and Madeleine LeFevre, a young French Toreador, and a relative newcomer to the city, but very astute in matters of entertainment and design—and no slouch when it comes to social and political soft-power either. Most of the money used to convert an abandoned warehouse into a popular night spot came from Treach and Sharpe—but the design of the club, and its décor, ambiance and weekly entertainments, as well as the hiring of much of its breathing and non-breathing staff, came from Madeleine. Treach put in the security systems, including cameras (which for some odd reason, never really seem to work reliably). Sharpe provides bouncers – both living and undead – to keep things under control. Both of them make sure that security is good for the nights that Mademoiselle LeFevre is the official hostess, since neither expect such a tiny, delicately built young woman—and a Toreador at that!—to be able to handle a Sabbat incursion, or disorderly pack of anarchs, on her own.
They are, of course, wrong—but she sees no need to let them know that. Madeleine is not young, nor French, nor even a Toreador—but she does have her own reasons for making sure The Inferno succeeds, both as a business venture, and as a safe space for all Cainites—or Kindred, if one must use the new language—to venture, meet, talk, scheme, gossip, and discretely hunt. And, if they wish, even to enjoy themselves and dance.
“The path to paradise begins in hell.”
― Dante Alighieri
The top ‘members only’ club is more formally named “Dante’s” but more commonly known as The Salon—a private club for Kindred (and their guests, if they wish) to meet, talk, enjoy special entertainment, and the occasional drink from the bar (or the staff). It has a row of windows looking down at the club below, but thankfully—for the sake of private conversation, and sensitive Kindred hearing—it features fairly impressive soundproofing. The décor of The Salon is more posh and dignified, more leather upholstery, teak, and brass, and less hellfire gothic nightmare (and no mirrors), though the occasional costumed waiter does still appear.
There are also some rooms in the back—offices, dressing rooms, a conference room (the Prince has been known to make use of it from time to time), or rooms where a Kindred might take a mortal ‘guest’ for… well, one does not inquire, so long as the guest is still able to walk out when their business is concluded (management frowns on murder, it’s ‘bad for business’). There are also a limited number of daylight-safe sleeping spaces, for guests who’ve stayed later than intended and need shelter from the coming dawn, or for new arrivals in town who have not yet found appropriate havens.
Why it’s fun:
It’s useful in a long-running chronicle to have a ‘common ground’ place for characters to meet, or cross paths with the various locals, or pick up clues or bits of information that can advance a storyline. That’s why so many cities in the World of Darkness have a place like the infamous Succubus Club, the Haven, the Black Magic Club, or the Rookery. (True, many Princes also declare places like museums and art galleries, or opera houses, etc. to be Elysium as well, but let’s face it—a night club or bar is a much better setting for socializing and politicking, and it comes with refreshments.) The Inferno has become the de facto meeting place for our chronicle in Baltimore; sometimes even the Sabbat show up. We’ve had special occasions with Kindred entertainers (both local talent and those visiting); it’s been a good place to go looking for information (Mr. Treach can be quite the gossip); and to introduce new characters to the existing cast. Etienne in particular loves to visit The Salon, but that’s because he knows who Madeleine really is, and she’s always sweet to him. The mood and style of The Salon varies with whose night it is to be ‘host’—the Kindred owner-managers alternate on a regular basis, so one of the three is always there. And just about any other character could be there at one time or another—even those among the Toreador and Ventrue clans who would like nothing better than to see the venture fail, but are not prepared to move directly against its trio of owners just yet.
We have not yet played a “Sabbat incursion” or “Anarch gang making trouble on purpose” scene—because the chronicle hasn’t called for one—but so far, at least, the security measures in place have proved quite adequate. Madeleine has connections on both the Sabbat and Camarilla side of things, and is considerably older and more politically savvy (and a lot more dangerous in a fight) than either of her business partners give her credit for. She likes being underestimated; she isn’t really interested in direct power for its own sake. She’s always been much happier as the adviser behind the throne. Perhaps one night even this young Prince will learn to listen to her—as other Princes have in her long and colorful past.
(The physical model I used for The Inferno was inspired by Ram’s Head Live, in Baltimore. It’s not as exotic in its décor, but the size and layout is about right.)