Thursday, May 6, 2010

It might suprise you to know I am now a middle aged woman

Yes, I own a cat, live alone, and over the last couple of days have read up to the 6th book in Charlaine Harris' vampire series, which eventually got turned into True Blood. Which now I have to watch. So, yeah, I'm your crazy spinster aunt now.

I have to say I really like the True Blood novels- Harris might have actually dethroned Andrew Vacchs as my reigning favorite novelist, if only because her novels aren't as relentlessly grim as his. Truly good vampire books- lots of interesting world building, tons of sex, more humor than alot of her contemporaries, and a better eye for detail and dialogue. Harris has Lauren Hamilton beat, even though the two women write pretty much the exact same story- a plucky female psychic living and working with vampires in a world where they're a recognized minority. Of course, I like Harris' characters better, and I've been through 6 of her books, while I could barely slog through the first Hamilton one.

So anyway, I got to thinking. Harris is obviously drawing on either WOD or at least the novels and that inspired the WOD originally, something that gets more obvious as the books pile up, and the entire menagarie of supernatural creatures start accumulating. Book one starts fairly 'sedately' one human telepath, a few vampires, and an occasional shapechanger. By six, you've got whole communities of Weres, other shapeshifters, mages, a few demons and half demons, a brother and sister pair of fairies, a couple goblins, and a few things nobody is sure what is. Oh, and brain damaged vampire Elvis, who fuckin' rocks!

It's like you can see the storyteller buying more WOD core rulebooks. "Hey guys, I just got Changeling and picked up Demon on Amazon for $5!" Still, it somehow works...

At some point I have to do a modern day vampire game of my own. I really do. I've been thinking about it off and on. I think I would market (and tell me if this comes off as sexist or a bad idea) to gaming widows. Because first off, all women love vampires. And second, it might be fun to make an introductory game for new players whose spouses game, but have never tried it themselves. Might be a cool untapped market.

With that in mind, what ever I end up creating won't be D20 based, not if I want it to emulate books like Harris'. Not for first time gamers. I was actually thinking of doing not using dice at all, because non-gamers don't tend to have the huge stocks of dice necessary to play most modern RPGs and aren't going to try out a hobby that requires not one huge, easy to find financial outlay, but lots of little, annoying mini-financial outlays. So I was thinking of a core mechanic based around playing cards- since everybody has a pack around the house, and even if they don't you can go get 'em for a buck or two anywhere.

I was thinking a "add up to target number mechanic". You know the difficulty of the task you're attempting, and add cards from your hand to whatever the target number is, either with one or more cards. Like if the target is 8, and you've got a pair of fours in hand, use those.... It would definately be more resource management and strategy than luck-based, with the number of cards you can draw per turn being a measure of character power and endurance.

I was thinking the game would be mostly social, romantic, political, sexual, ect just like the books. Combat would be very quick, and likely over in 1-2 hits. Somebody hits, somebody dodges, somebody hits and BOOM! one vampire is dead on the ground with his head on the ground. I was thinking the entire combat system would boil down to two stats: Savagery and Skill. Skill is used to dodge, and to handle most ranged attacks (aimed shots, sniping) while savagery is just fists, fangs, and general badassery. It handles damage and some ranged (stuff that donesn't need precision, like busting in the door with a shottie). You use either Savagery or Skill to handle melee attacks, depending on your fighting style.

So, that's the easy part out of the way. Something I want to get across is that in every vampire media I've ever seen: WOD, Blade, Harris & Hamilton's stuff, Underworld, even fuckin Sparkly vamps, Vampires are insanely political. In most of these worlds there's probably fewer than 20,000 vamps world wide, likely less, yet they have these insanely complex governments, which are sorta like Frank Herbert meets Calvinball. It would be like if Alice TX decided to hold annual elections for a three branch government, Supreme Court and occasional military junta. These guys are pack animals, the love drama, interaction, emotion, they need to have a title, a job and somebody they're trying to backstab. Humans can go off and be Ted Kazinski, complete unto themselves basically, but vampires need politics.... especially over complex, hierarchical and rapidly changing ones.

So there's going to be a lot of social interaction, trades of favors. And sex. These guys love sex- every book, there's never a vampire that's bad at sex. And it kinda makes sense: sex is power, emotion, manipulation, social interaction. Plus, it's gotta be a real treat for somebody with enhanced senses.

So sex and seduction would be big, probably even more than WOD ever did. How to do that and not come off as cheesy and weird, that's the question, one I really can't answer yet.

And if I want to do this as a game I have to answer it, but I'm just spitballing today. So yeah, sex. Lots of, in great detail, with vampires, humans, weres... maybe everybody at once, some big-old supernatural being orgy. Part of both Hamilton & Harris' work is the female harem idea: One cool female protagonist getting to choose from all these fabulous, sexy exotic but uniquely flawed heroes/antiheroes. She dithers, occasionally goes into a sulk b/c one of her many romantic interests screws her over, but Sookie and Anita Blake are fantasy stand-ins for the reader, and that's at least 80% responsible for the books success. So the idea of the female (?) player stepping in, building a PC and having her choice from the pick of the sex partner liter is necessary.

And the end game would be eventually winnowing the choices down to one or two, to finding a true love, which can protect you from some shit (like your kinda psycho vampire boyfriend attacking you) but leaves you open to whole new plot complications.

Okay, and I realized that in my world at least, all vamps (male and female) would be bisexual, b/c feeding has a sexual component, so as a survival strategy, all vamps would be bi to give them the widest possible target selection. And the widest selection of people to sexually manipulate, as mentioned above. Bisexuality as evolution.... kinda cool.

So now, the less important questions:
Can vamps drink bottle blood? No, because I think that is fucking silly. Besides, I always figured the blood a vamp drinks is just a 'conduit' for life energy, or the soul or whatever it really needs to survive. The blood is a token amount of energy, not enough to sustain a high metabolism, large and active creature, even if all 8 pints are drank.

So vamps feed on life energy or something? Sure, why not?

Clans? Probably not like WOD where your clan determines what superpowers you have. I like Harris' clans- they're basically just micro-nations, cults of personality. Any diversity in powers is a personal difference, not a clan-based one. But oh yeah, the vamps will have factions, subfactions, rebel factions, traitors, loyalists, conservatives, liberals, asskissers, iconoclasts, and who is who will change by the session.

So other creatures? I'm thinking I have to do werewolves, because that's another common fantasy trope, and because vampires and werewolves work so fuckin' well together. Other than that who knows, but I don't want to bog it down with the whole panoply of monsters like WOD and Harris' stuff. I know I want to do succubi, because they're sexy too, manipulative also, and also feed on life energy/emotion, so they're an automatic fit. But I figure that if there is a build your own power system, it will be effects based, so the player can make her character as unique as she wants, build witches, demons, ghosts, whatever.... even if she is the only one like her in the game world. Uniqueness and specialness are potent elements of the fantasy too.

So how many vamps? Who knows? I want enough that the play group can run into a few new vamps every couple of sessions, for a year or two of campaigning and not stretch disbelief too much. But I don't want huge numbers. I like the idea that after vampires go public, there are more than ever before, more new young, iconoclastic vampires. If you had to pin me down, call it 50,000 to 100,000 vamps and other supernatural things world wide, with maybe 10% of that in America.

I also have this idea that vampires become more efficient at feeding the more of them are together. Like the curse is lessened when shared (and yes, I do like the idea of supernatural, magical vamps, no scientific explanations here). Like if one vampire needs X amount of blood per day, two vamps, or five only need 1.5X. I have this vision of vampires sharing blood and life energy, regurgitating/snowballing blood like birds. Of course, that image might be too A) silly or B) disturbing for a game I want to be mostly serious and erotic, but who knows.

So what else? Ah, that's enough for today.

Oh, what else have I been working on?
Well, I've been playing around with the exact opposite concept from a vampire erotic game- a tabletop minis wargame based on Otherverse America. And I'm just about to start on a revised version of Freeform Anthropomorphica. I was planning to add 3-4 short campaign settings, each around 20 pages long. Right now, the campaign settings are shaping up thus:

1. A subterrania/lost world type setting. Very pulpy, dinosaurs, cat-headed cave women, Neanderthals, a very Pelicuar feel.

2. An insectoid setting similar to the old Sectuars cartoons. Everything has insectoid traits, characters all get mounts/animal companions/or familiars as a bonus ability, since everybody is bonded to an insect companion at birth or coming of age. Lots of cool bio-logical technology, more of a science-fantasy feel than traditional fantasy.

3. A standard fantasy kingdom where everyone who crosses the border becomes an anthro, and the natives of the land can shapeshift into their totem animal. Basically an entire kingdom of were creatures.

4. My favorite, Narnia as written by a militant non-Christian. The lawful evil Cult of the Lion is forcibly converting other anthros to lion-paladins, spreading their creed at the point of the sword, scrubbing away diversity and beauty in favor of drab conformity.

And what else? I put the finishing touch on Project Watchtower, a nice 7,000 word sourcebook for Psi-Watch. Its an enemy book, introducing a Sentinel-style threat to the players, 6 major enemy types, a couple of variants, and a new player race which sorta looks like Bastian's Prime Sentinels if you squint just a little.

So I've been busy.

Talk to you later,

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