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.
NPCs are (mostly) the ultimate supporting characters—their job is to hinder, aid, abet, obstruct, instigate, irritate, manipulate, aggravate, and annoy. They are there to bring out the best (or the worst) in the player characters who are the protagonists. They provide the motivation, the information, the kick in the pants, the stake in the back. They also sometimes provide transportation, shelter, weapons, or advice. They are the support team and the prime opposition to the player characters’ plans. Sometimes they’re just innocent bystanders (but no one ever believes them when they try that one).
So here’s to the unsung supporting cast, characters who did their job, played their parts, cashed their paycheck, and (most of the time) died offscreen:
Gaius Augustus Aquilaeus (Guy dell’Aquila), Prince of Milan: (Lasombra)
Dating back to the end of the old Roman Empire, a soldier and stoic to his core, and never at all impressed by that “new-fangled” religion named after that Christos fellow. Almost always appearing only in flashback because he finally met his sorry end back in the 14th century, at the fangs of his successor, and nobody mourned him very much. He was cold-hearted, manipulative, a bully, and a brutally efficient warlord and Prince who definitely believed it was better to be feared than loved. He was also the founder of a Lasombra Dynasty that ruled either from the throne or behind it for over five hundred years; and a prime example of how a powerful prince can finally screw over just enough of the wrong people to instigate rebellion—more than once, in fact. But it was the last time that proved the charm. Sire of Contessa Alianora dell’Aquila, and grandsire to Marius dell’Aquila, also Prince of Milan. House dell’Aquila pretty much vanished off the map and from the Kindred histories when the Camarilla managed to kick Marius of his throne in the 16th century; he was reported as destroyed (taking three Tremere wizards with him) three decades later. However… House dell’Aquila will resurface again in the early 21st century as an extended family pack, so clearly old Gaius’ descendants-in-blood are still going strong….
Gaius started out as little more than the name of Alianora’s sire when I first created her to be the elder privy adviser to the newly enthroned Prince of the Saarland, for the first-ever Dark Ages game I played in (run via email by Myranda Sarro). I decided she was from Milan, and had left her home city in large part to get the hell away from her cruel and manipulative sire; she had managed to gain her freedom by willfully Embracing a new childe without permission, but in such a way that her Sire (who was the Prince) had to banish her and her new childe (Marius) to maintain the political status quo. (Marius was less than thrilled with this, but she didn’t exactly consult him. He did agree it was better than being permanently dead). So Gaius was a remote shadow hanging over her—and eventually he DID get deposed and called on her for aid, and things just went downhill for a while from there. Gaius was created to be a manipulative, exploitative and abusive bastard—and he never failed to disappoint on that score. (That and he also gave Marius something to rebel against, and an example of the kind of Prince NOT to be when he finally assumed his grandsire’s throne).
Ercole de Hauteville, Ventrue condottiere and Prince of Milan: (Ventrue)
The younger son of a younger son of the de Hautevilles of Norman Sicily, Ercole took up the sword as his profession, and became the very image of the Ventrue warrior, until Alianora dell’Aquila and her consort Jovan Ruthven made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. In the wake of civil war and the short-lived Brujah “republic” in Milan, he was offered a chance to earn a throne in the shadow of the Sforza conquest of Milan. Ercole accepted, won his battles, consolidated his power with a political marriage to a Ventrue princess of Florence, and rebuilt the Ventrue clan of Milan (which had been all but wiped out by Gaius in the past). His relations with the surviving members of House dell’Aquila were generally respectful but cool (he didn’t want to be seen as their puppet, and did not invite the Contessa or Jovan Ruthven into his inner circle of advisers), but he did prove to be a fair-minded and even-handed Prince. Unfortunately, while he in theory supported the idea of the Camarilla, he drew a hard line when it came to a Justicar pre-empting his rights as Prince to try and punish outlaws in his own Domain. He sent the Justicar back to Paris, staked and bound in a box (though at least his head was still attached—Jovan, being Tzimisce, had recommended separate boxes for each). Ercole’s ‘mercy’ was not appreciated, however. Milan was declared an enemy of the Camarilla, and when the French invaded, the Camarilla forces came with them. Ercole was killed in the battle, and his entire household were either executed or bound to loyal Camarilla supporters in blood.
Ercole was pretty much a stern but fair warrior-prince—not given to manipulation or intrigue, but pretty straight-forward and blunt in his dealings with others. He was mostly a background figure—until the story needed him to forcefully assert his authority, not at all forgiving of those who made trouble in his domain. He came, kicked some rebel-subjects’ asses, declared blood hunts, and all kinds of fun stuff. He was a pretty good guy for a prince and a Ventrue—but sometimes even the good guys lose.
Dr. Nicholas Blair, Regent of Baltimore: (Tremere)
Also appearing only in flashbacks, due to his untimely and mysterious Final Death during the infamous Halloween Massacre of 1994, when his entire chantry was wiped out and burned to the ground in an unexpected and apparently incredibly well-planned Sabbat attack. He was the child of Marissa, the former Pontifex and Prince of DC, and grandchilde of Dr. John Dee of London. His specialty was the study of spirit thaumaturgy, and the study of the spirit realms. He was the founding Regent of the Baltimore Chantry, and well-versed in geomancy and wardings—no one knows how the Sabbat were able to break through the chantry’s defenses. One childe died with him; others had been transferred elsewhere before the attack. He was known as somewhat of a curmudgeon (if he didn’t like you), a stern and demanding instructor, and yet was also responsible for helping negotiate a non-aggression treaty with the local Sabbat (that was apparently a ruse to put the Camarilla off their guard…). One of his childer, Ms. Sarah McCullough, petitioned to return to Baltimore and help rebuild the chantry there after his death, and her petition was granted. If Dr. Blair had other havens besides the destroyed chantry, or secret caches of occult information elsewhere in the city, those have not yet been found….
Dr. Blair exists only in flashback because his tragic and mysterious Final Death (and indeed the entire Halloween Massacre mystery itself) was the story trigger to bring my player character, Sarah McCullough, back to Baltimore and to join the ongoing Chronicle. Her relationship to him also gave her roots and a history in the city (she grew up there), and a personal quest to follow (to discover what really happened to her sire – since the more evidence she finds, the less and less likely it looks like what happened was “just” a Sabbat attack that got lucky.) It’s a shame he only appears in her memories, because he’s kind of interesting in his own right – but that’s what happens when you start the story already deceased. But even though he’s gone, his personality and backstory continue to be slowly revealed… and perhaps one night, the full story of the night of his Final Death will be revealed too.