[Actual Play] The Last Night – 1st V5 Pre-Alpha Playtest

Veröffentlicht: 27/07/2017 in Actual Play, English, RPG, Urban Fantasy, V:tM, White Wolf
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Within less than a week of its release I organized a group to play the V5 PlayTest scenario „The Last Night“ on the 10th of June via Google Hangout.

The article will describe how the game went, which challenges we encountered, as well as my thoughts regarding the scenario and rules. It is the first of a series of four actual plays. I will try my best to recall the game correctly, though I would point out that it is about a month and a half in the past.

I will express my comment, thoughts, thoughts of players in block quotes.
You will experience spoilers in regards of the scenario „The Last Night“. Specially if you are a player of mine, planning to play in another run.

20170727_015153

My two V5 Pre-Alpha Playtest books

Index

  • Preparation & Setup
  • Adaptions
  • The Players
  • The Scenario
    • Getting Started
    • Enter: The Golden Gate Club
    • In: The Golden Gate Club
    • Finding Haven
    • The night after the last night
    • Refugee center
    • Heading out for blood, betrayal and bad surprises
    • Brunos ending
    • Saving André (again)
    • Amelinas, Amirs and Nicholas ending
  • Conclusion
    • My overall impression
    • Feedback I got

Preparation & Setup

I went to a copy shop to get the scenario and rules printed and (ring)bound.
At the one hand because of my reading preferences. While I can do with PDFs, having a printed document helped. At the other hand because I did plan to run it more than once.

I did choose a handful of pictures for various locations to present during the game. A player provided a dice roller, based on the one I presented earlier.

Adaptions

I did change some of the character details. At the one hand to respect certain boundaries, at the one hand to fix obvious pitfalls.

Most noteworthy I changed Amelinas feeding restriction to „18 – 22 year old people from middle eastern heritage“. Consequently the refugee home got changed to a regular one. I did as well rename and relocate it. I did as well removed the baby and aged up any child characters.

I did expand the character backgrounds to include the most obvious information that I found missing. Like who Sired or is Sired by whom and who knows about the Golden Gate.

In hindsight, I missed to include a lot of information the characters should have had.
A remark I received, the player who played Amelina pointed out that there is no reason why she would have embraced Nicholas. A thirty year old blogger doesn’t fit her feeding restriction, her party habits and brings nothing to the table.

The Players

I’ve found a total of four players.
A player who is actually still invested in the World of Darkness / Chronicles of Darkness.
Two players who played Vampire: The Masquerade before but moved on to other RPGs.
A player who played Vampire: The Masquerade once, didn’t exactly like it, and doesn’t have deeper knowledge of the setting and rules as they were previously.

I presented the PreGens, told the players that I expect them to handle „secrets“ in a reasonable way, and had the players pick one they liked.

In hindsight I should have made sure that the least experienced player didn’t end up playing Bruno. Whos motivation is detrimental to the coterie and who is an actual antagonist among the characters.

The Scenario

Getting Started

I started the game with a broad explanation of the setting, the changes and recent events. It went from the princes rivalry between Gustav Breidenstein and Wilhelm Waldburg to the Anarchs, the situation in Berlin, aspects like the formation and suppression of the Church of Caine and the Second Inquisition. I explained that by all indications a revolution took place before the night they met and that they are currently at a Spielothek, called the „Allnite Glücklich“.

I linked some of the pictures I selected previously and described the Spielothek as a busy place, with quite some one armed bandits making quite some sound, allowing for a unsupervised conversation. I then ask them to have their characters engage in a conversation, as there would be quite a lot to talk about. The conversation started slowly and, I would say, bit awkwardly.

A remark I have, I noticed that asking players to have their characters talk about an event they have very little knowledge about, isn’t the most engaging start into a scenario. I did as well decide against separating the players by having Bruno come in late.
A remark I got, while I didn’t really like it, and considered it a tad awkward at least one player was okay with it.

The characters sat at their table and noticed how the mood got kind of dense. The smoke felt as it was getting thicker, the air more dense, they were under the impression of being watched. Confused they tried to pin-point it, got more nervous when the news hit.

The TV program changed from a regular soccer game to a flash news. The screen showed the „Golden Gate“ club attacked and the reporter presented the news of the truck attack at the crowded club.

The Turkish owner of the bar cursed, had the bar closed down with his son and the characters discussed what they’ll do. Most were in favor of rescuing André, just Bruno tried to resist the call. Yet he did fell victim to his bond.

Nicholas stayed back, considered a quick hunt, yet decided to follow the others towards the Golden Gate.

A remark I have, „Vegans“ as a feeding restriction was quite annoying. I have no idea how to spot a Vegan and there isn’t any indication whether Nicholas can actually smell meat-eaters or whether its a delusion of his. The victims described in the scenario don’t have a Vegan indicator. Thus I decided to make the daughter Vegan, yet Nicholas reconsidered.
In general, I think I nailed the „dark foreshadowing“.

Enter: The Golden Gate Club

Confronted with the Golden Gate club there appeared to be several ways in. One way would be to go back to the nearby metro and walk over the club, another one to walk past the first cordon and plan from there.

Amir and Nicholas decided to use the Metro approach and follow the railroad while Amelina and Bruno headed through the first cordon. Bruno activated his obfuscate to approach unseen. Amelina got to the walled of garden on the back of the club and would attempt to climb the wall.

In general, having the player split up like this made me a bit nervous yet it went fine and the dice were mostly with us. I did decide that removing the „jumping from rooftops“ aspect wasn’t a good move.
In regards of the scenario, it would have been really nice to have the garden not just mentioned but described. Maybe alongside a backdoor?
In regards of the rules (my mistake), I think its been the point where Amelina rolled two ones on her dice. The player asked whether he couldn’t just spent a willpower to re-roll those obvious none-successes and I agreed after some confusion and an unsuccessful check of the rules.  I should have known that it isn’t possible.

Amir and Nicholas managed to sneak past the helicopter and arrived at about the same time above the club as Bruno got in front of it while Amelina scaled the Wall.

The three kindred arrived just in time to see three people leaving the club, arms raised in surrender and one trying to flee. The present GSG9 special forces shot the two guys, who the characters could identify as Anarchs, in the legs. The fleeing person got gunned down hard and the kneeling kindred where executed on the spot and a panic ensued. While the spectator characters could spot the use of ignition rounds.

Bruno, who recognized his phone contact, went over, obfuscated and kicked that bugger good. Risking his obfuscate to break and hurried in after the kick. Amir and Nicholas slipped in through the roof. Amelina found a pair in the backyard, who cowered and whimpered while the shoots rang.

Localization failure, critical! Oh my god. I never had a player almost walk out on me. Yet this over the top police violence was almost to much for the player of Bruno, who got frustrated of it, and caused a major discussion among the other three players.
From my point of view the scene mostly serves to demonstrate that the SI means business and inform the characters about the threat.
Which is a valid goal, yet the implementation. Totally off.
Like police forces or civil forces executing people like that is virtually unheard of in Germany. We don’t even got a lot of normal police shootings in Germany.
The most well known one is a case in 1993, when the GSG9 (allegedly) shot down member of the RAF (German). It wasn’t a public execution and the person was well known to be involved with an organisation (RAF) responsible for murders and bombings.
Having three people executed, just like that, in front of a crowd, broke any suspension of disbelieve.

Localization failure. Either before or after the game I had a lengthy discussion in regards of the counter terrorism force and intelligence agency used.
The GSG9 is a police force and thus a civil institution.  The military equivalent would be a KSK commando. Which came up in a discussion who would be rather to commit something as unthinkable as a public execution and who would work with which intelligence branch.
The KSA (German) isn’t an official intelligence agency but a branch of the military performing intelligence operations. The actual intelligence agency would be the BND, which is a civil institution.
Thus it would be either GSG9 and BND or a KSK and the KSA.

In: The Golden Gate Club

Confronted with the two frighten clubbers Amelina decided to actually help the people. She used dominate to get them to actually be able to move and directed them to use chairs, tables and the like to build an escape route over the wall. Afterwards she headed into the club.

Nicholas and Amir entered through the roof and encountered the thick fog of the second floor. They heard a human coughing and pleading, yet their goal was André and they haven’t had time to safe a random clubber.

Bruno entered the main dancefloor and successful manage to suppress his Rötschreck instinct. He assessed the situation, the broken stair, two dead clubbers on the floor and another, barely alive one under a bar.
Given the stressful events of the night he approached the squashed man and sunk his teeth in him. Drinking him dry.

Amelina came in and noticed the scene as Amir and Nicholas approached from upstairs. Surviving the almost broken stairs without injury. They all resisted the red fear and heard how a loud /thump/ along with boots announced that the club got invaded by SI.

Without loosing two much time they headed down the stairs into the cellar. The mood was tense. Amelina snapped at Nicholas and he retaliated. With Amir and Nicholas already in the storage room the two Ventrue starred at each other. The thundering of the stairs under the weight of the GSG9s boots announced the threat closer. Thus though it was one snipe to many, they settled, confronted the box and after a brief period of „who has the code? why?“ the coterie was safe for once in the panic room.

They close the door behind them via a panel and discovered Andrés disfigured body in torpor. Above him his loyal ghoul, as Amir could attest, who wasted her life trying to raise her master with her blood, all of it.
A discussion whether it was possible to raise him was cut short by the GSG9 entering and searching the storage room. Luckily they missed the panic room and retreated to make room for regular firemen, police and a cleanup group.

The coterie took André and decided to head out of the building, out of the immediate danger.

My impression, the character conflict was quite cool and smooth. The frenzy rolls where successful. I think there was one minor compulsion, though I am not sure.
In regards of the scenario, I really disliked the back door. It wasn’t a complaint by the player. Though I felt like if the characters were down there, knew the code – at least one did – they would have known about the backdoor and entered through it. It bugged me and I moved it into the panic room, at a hidden spot, for later play tests.

Finding Haven

The night war dark, nearing its end the threat of what happened was very real to the characters. They considered carrying André to one of their havens, yet decided to find a new one. To not compromise their places.

In regards of the scenario, I found the approach to ask the players to describe their haven lacking. At the one hand, it will put them out of the narrative, thinking from a meta-perspective. At the other hand, its quite a lot to ask when they are focusing on the game, the setting and the new rules – specially if they are new. Last but not least, once they made up their own haven, they are asked whether or not to put it at risk.
It is like asking a group „imagine your really nice car for each of you“, waiting for the reply, and than asking „now, who donates their car for the garbage fest“.

They decided to look for an abandoned warehouse, at the other side of Friedchshain close to the Arena Club. They got their and discussed the dead parrot, well torpid elder in the room. It was quite clear that they just wouldn’t be able to raise him by normal means and blood and thus another plan was required. Yet day was nigh and they had to sleep.

In general, I didn’t like my GM’ing of the haven search. It was clunky and involved a lot of fiddeling with Google maps plus some discussion. I somehow was (unreasonably) panicked to have their haven in the wrong area (where the Anarchs are).

Bruno retreated into a cubboard, while Amelina, Amir and Nicholas locked themselves in a dark cellar room. André went into a separate one. The morning came and they got hungrier.

In regards of the rules (my problem), I found it way to difficult to break the game for scene cuts. Thus this was the first time they rolled their „blood roused“ and willpower was replenished.
In regards of the rules (my mistake), 
during the playtest I totally missed the rule that drinking causes a blood roused roll. Making it impossible to reduce hunger before a scene break.
In regards of the rules (my suggestion), 
the blood roused roll before drinking is cumbersome and unnecessary rolling. A system that automatically converts blood roused to hunger (half of it rounded up?) would be nice.

The night after the last night

The members of the coterie awoke from a less than peaceful slumber. Recalling the rather traumatic scenes from the previous night. In a less than decent, common and even secure haven. Among kindred they didn’t really like and with André in the middle.

As quite some surprise the night started off rather peacefully. Bruno caught a rat and threw it over to Amelina, who gave it a bite.

A small discussion ensued whether the rat reduces a dot of hunger or not. After some rules consultation we noticed that a single rat doesn’t. In a minor slip up I / we totally forgot that Ventrues ain’t eating rats.

The coterie wondered what to do with André who was still badly wounded and torpid. A discussion ensued how to revive him and who should and could give the elder blood.

Being the oldest „Penner“, Amelina suggested that he would need about seven doses of blood to heal all of his wounds, which would happen during the day. He would be out of torpor but still torpid thanks to a certain lack of humanity. This could be elevated by feeding him kindred blood for consecutive seven nights.

In regards of the scenario, I considered it a bit frustrating that the scenario, as written, doesn’t really offer a choice. If the players want to wake up André they’ll have to feed him blood. It isn’t described how it works or how many is needed. The characters, and thus the players, will think it takes a week when in truth it takes at least a month. Which thanks to the scenarios way of treating wayward players isn’t feasible. Thus I came up with a system to offer an actual choice.
Feeding a kindred like André took 3 blood rouses per dose.

Refugee center

For the plan to be enacted the coterie needed a safer haven. Thus Amelina took it upon herself to call her driver, move the group as well as the body in the car, and head to the Tempohome refugee center.

In general, an action that did quite surprise me. In hindsight changing the feeding restriction did made the center a somewhat less inhumane hunting ground.

The body got stashed in the cellar, where Amelina had a small bureau. A plan was made. It took quite some discussion but in the end they decided who would which turn and went hunting.

Nicholas took the Vegan receptionist. Amelina and Amir one of the sleeping refugees. None of the people where murdered. Bruno decided to steal the phone of one of the sleeping refugees and hack it.

Heading out for blood, betrayal and bad surprises

As blood got roused and hunger increased, and André being still in bad shape, the group headed out to hunt for more.

They came across the news that the police, and thus the SI, was looking for a fourth member. A person, that by blurred frame,  scurried into the wrecked Golden Gate. One which they did now was Bruno.

In regards of the scenario, it will have the SI searching for a fourth terrorist in either way. Given Bruno kicked the dead kindred in front of the GSG9 with head-cams came in very handy to have it (appear) a bit less railroady. [I did, of course, back in the Golden Gate scene, informed the player that obfuscate doesn’t help against recordings]

The group did hesitate a bit and got approach by a women from the Bärgida movement, that did strangely enough head for Amir.
Bruno used his chance to separate himself from the coterie. Once out of sight he made a phone call. Contacting the Anarchs to inform them about André being at the refugee center. He dropped the old phone, stole a new one and headed out.
Amir on the other hand got a racist rant from the women, asking to sign a pretty offending petition. While confused at first he noticed a note, took it and read it. With the irritating women leaving. The note proved to be from his Sire, informing him that the „Penner“ had a traitor in their midst, that phones are not safe, the prince is dead and which Camarilla city might still be okay.
A cab got called or a car stolen and they drove around to not remain in place.

In regards of the scenario, I really don’t know what „A has connect“ is supposed to mean. My English does quite fail me on that part. I translated it as „A[ntoinette] has connected to prague“ somewhat along the line.
In general
, the scene was quite bumpy. There was a lot of confusion what Bruno as a character witnessed and what not. When he left. I think I could have handled it better.
It did as well get quite late. One player couldn’t play for much longer, everyone was tired and I did my best to speed things up from here.

Brunos ending

Bruno tried to head out of Berlin, using the metro system or at least a cab. Yet the metro was highly controlled, the streets closed and no cab would drive out. He tried to find a way, yet got found by the Anarchs.

They brought him before the revolutionary council who decided he may continue his unlife once fully blood bond.

Localization failure! The player of Bruno lived in Berlin for quite some years. Most of us do know Berlin to a certain extent. The idea that the streets are under a lock down as described in the scenario was very difficult to get across. There was no way for me to give the players a reasonable explanation how every highway and interstate is controlled and why smaller streets aren’t available. Like, it’s Berlin. It is a very massive city. One not exactly limited by natural stuff like the sea, mountain or the like. There are hundreds of small streets in and out.
It took a small forever to get the concept across to the players, under like protest.
To have Bruno picked up by the Anarchs, after a steep stealth roll, was kind of a compromise. Which felt to the player as being railroaded. An observation that’s quite true.

Saving André (again)

It didn’t took long before the news hit the radio that the refugee center was under suspicion of harboring terrorist. The characters were shocked and decided to get there as fast as possible, hoping the ghoul would have interfered or at least got André to safety.

In general, what happened was that I assumed that the SI still got taps on Brunos Anarch contacts. Even as it won’t have been Victor anymore, well or someone who had Victors phone. Thus when Bruno told the Anarchs, the SI knew as well.
My original idea was to have André just be killed and be done with it.
Yet convincing roleplay and Arguments by the player of Amelina had me offering him a luck role. I asked whether it should be high or low (original idea: high André will get a quick end, low it will be a prolonged end) and the dice said: Natural 10.
Thus he would be „safeable“. I rolled once more for myself for details.

They managed to contact their ghoul, who hid nearby and informed them what happened. First a bunch of Anarchs showed up, raiding the place and spreading chaos. Yet they didn’t found André. The GSG9/SI came afterwards and cleared the Anarchs out, yet missed the torpid elder. Who got picked up by the police and brought to the local morgue along with other victims.

The remaining „Penner“ headed straight for the hospital. Nicholas and Amir infiltrated it with their social skills, retrieved the body, got it to the back exit, into a hijacked hospital car and plotted their next step.

The summary is brief. Because it was very late and I resorted to, maybe a bit overly, aggressive scene-framing, pushed for speed and towards the finish line. Got a bit sloppy too. I think that Nicholas and Amir did the infiltration as Amelinas name got compromised with the refugee center.
In regards of the scenario, it wasn’t good that Amir the night nurse, with a doctor cover identity hasn’t had a single dot in medicine.

Amelinas, Amirs and Nicholas ending

They evaluated the city and ultimately decided to try Prague.

In regards of the scenario, it isn’t good that I, as a ST, have to tell the players what their characters know about safe Camarilla cities, and basically ask them to parrot me in an ingame conversation. It should be in the background.
Camarilla infos (havens, contact, etc.) should as well be in the background. To ask the players to come up with one, just to explain its a dead end, won’t be exactly engaging for them or offering a fair chance at shaping the story.

They decided to hide André in a secure place and leave him there. At least till they could make a safe return.

Something I did as well suggest as a creative fashion to avoid having the dead weight along, that likely will just make it more difficult up to impossible to escape.

In regards for the escape they decided to organize a private plane and successfully made it off towards Prague.

In regards of the scenario / localization, I did told them that escape by car or train will be very unlikely and their best bet would be a private plane. Which, at least for Germans, is quite counter-intuitive.
I did as well inform them that Nicholas hasn’t got a cover id, something that the scenario background does fail to highlight.
I did as well inform Amelina that she knows about the Grünwald sept and that escape by foot would result into a unbeatable Werewolf up their vampiric behinds.
In general, I did ask a higher difficulty than before, yet kept it feasible.

Thus, the Last Night, ended

Conclusion

I did, of course, direct the players to the White Wolf blog to give direct feedback.

My overall impression

I did like the rules, I do still like the scenario.
Yet I didn’t feel like I ran the game in a good fashion.

The character sheets should have been better prepared from my side. Adding on more information. I was really bad at doing the scene breaks as they should have been. There were two major rule mistakes I didn’t like making. I should have set the difficulty higher for various tasks, for most I asked two or three successes.
The technological prep could have been better.
I failed to really, properly inform the player who’s new to VtM about the setting and rules. The cold open wasn’t good and the pacing, from my part, was off.
Short: I wasn’t satisfied with my GM’ing.

In regards of rules, I missed „politics“ and „technology“ as well as a method of giving someone blood. It would as well have been nice to have some rules for „what happens if several vampires eat from one victim“.

Feedback I got

I did got told that the playtest did nail the theme and mood as described in the scenario.
Yet another feedback was that they would expect other themes and moods or at least the option for those. It didn’t really felt that much like Masquerade.
I do think I remember the vice & virtue mechanic getting positive feedback from the player who does as well like the chronicles of darkness system.
The hunger system was seen as interesting, yet thanks to a lack of scene breaks and rules mistakes a bit to little explored.
A major point of critic in regards of the scenario was the localization, that the scenario was set in Berlin, yet didn’t felt like being actually placed in Germany.
Another point of critic was the missing reason for the coterie to actually stay together, safe from André. If it weren’t for the SI and Anarch revolution they would have killed each other, like, within a fortnight.

I did as well received constructive feedback on my GM’ing. Which I used to improve the following playtest.

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Kommentare
  1. Gavin Moore sagt:

    I really appreciate the „Localization failures“ you mentioned (even as a GM from North America). White Wolf needs to be extra cognizant of these issues in their upcoming printed materials.

    • Teylen sagt:

      I am glad it’s appreciated. According to the announcements White Wolf will work with locals on future products, to get the various aspects right. I guess the challenges from the playtest come from the playtest being in pre-alpha state ^^;

  2. Just curious if you’d like me to feature this article on my RPG Blog Carnival wrap up post. The theme was about Dark Settings and Dark Genres. Seeing as one of the posters made an article on World of Darkness, a report on the new Vampire would be right at home!

  3. […] Teylen’s RPG Corner – [Actual Play] The Last Night – 1st V5 Pre-Alpha Playtest – Teylen gives a run down of a Vampire the Masquerade V5 playtest, set in the ever stark World of Darkness universe. […]

  4. Lisa Padol sagt:

    I’m very late to the party, having only just read the scenario. Did anyone else catch that Nicholas’s character sheet says he was turned by Amelina and describes their relationship — but Ameline’s sheet makes NO mention of this?

    • Gavin Moore sagt:

      I took that to mean that she sees him as failed progeny; a subtle shunning. We had a fifth player join my final playtest and I made her Amelina’s second (and more successful) attempt at creating a childe.

    • Teylen sagt:

      I did notice it briefly before the game, when the player of Amelina pointed it out to me.
      For the future sessions I did adopt the scenario gradually.
      In regards of Amelina of Nicholas I softened the „You’d like to kill her“ angle for him.
      I changed it for Nicholas to „You [as a leftleaning hipster blogger] perceive Amelina as traditionalist and very conservative.“. Giving the player the option to decide how much PvP is cool.
      I changed it for Amelina to „You were commanded by your Sire, the prince, to embrace Nicholas. To gain influence in the more liberal, progressive scene. His hipster personality and values did occasionally clash with your own.“

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