Halloween extra – “Home at Last” the final V5 edit version

Originally a one-sitting writing exercise before work on V5 began in earnest. My writing process is “90% perspiration and 10% inspiration” as my dad Kjell said to me with unusual intensity, frowning at the tiny mac SE screen. Now I know he was in the throes of it, wrestling the text until it submits. In games speak I think we both kinda seem to write like you play Dark Souls rather than Diablo 3. This is why this text was weird. I hardly remember writing it. I’ve never used back-space as few times when writing a text as here. It was born without hesitation because it was never meant for the light of day. But it did. We needed a new story for a digital edition in a hurry and Karim liked it so in it went. I was kinda embarrassed about the same cold coarseness I initially liked so much. And then it was at some point maybe going into the Cam or Core book and Freja Gyldenström wrestled the text a final round. I think it reads cleaner and approaches something resembling a story. Anyways here it is.

Be warned, there are high concentrations of blood, sex, gore and messy self realization. Its probably tasteless to someone and it burns through themes of immigration, sexual violence and such.

Trivia: The title is a dry double reference to Swedish home-decorating-show “Äntligen Hemma” and the then fresh fall from grace of its secretly asshole creeper host, revered for decades as the prototypical nice guy.

But enough preamble, here’s the thing. Best read aloud in a somewhat relentless monotone.

Home at Last

Her chinless freak got me good. It was dressed up as a Syrian construction worker coming into the driveway just after sunset in a beaten-up ’83 Nissan. The car was a dirty metallic green, cardboard plates with hand-drawn letters. No one in their right mind would have trusted someone stepping out of it. My childe, my daughter and lover rolled into one, had set up the connect, so what could possibly go wrong? The dead thing wore a dry face with watery eyes and affected a constant, pained chewing as it carried the first camouflaged bag of concrete into the cellar. I followed along. It made a rhythmic clicking sound as it turned rapidly and drove a half-inch thick rebar straight through my ribcage. I just stared at those moist eyes in disbelief. Betrayal. Heartbreak. Final Death.

The details of the struggle are uninteresting. This was an old thing, a strong thing, veins pumping full of raging heart’s blood, freshly drawn. It looked disgusted with existence as it methodically proceeded to destroy me. I was still stumbling, blood screaming out of me to form a momentary carmine flight down the cellar stairs. The dead body was following me slowly, taking its time to haunch over and suck my blood off the concrete as it came.

Supposedly this was one of the builders Emelie had talked to during that long concerned call last Friday. The Akalias. We were having teen dinner. Rare treat these days. On the sofa the nineteen-year-old depressive was talking less and less, getting dizzy and empty as I drank from his armpit. Stubble against lips. Tender tension of thin skin. The release of canine penetration. Sip slow. Pleasant downer blood. I saved him for my childe. The one I killed and gave birth to. 

But Emilie just harped on and on in French over her Sony burner for an hour. “Not hungry,” she mimed. A lie. She was sounding stressed. I stepped out and put dinner in a cab, strawberry jasmine in the air. He smelled of sweat and rising anxiety as he waved goodbye weakly. Emelie stepped on the phone like it was a cockroach when I got in. Her heel broke. She was hunger-flaky and paranoid. For my sake of course. This was important. 

“You have to be safe, Jegor.” She turned and stalked me across the white-box living room with its single cubist leather sofa. Disapproving glances at the three specks of blood leading from me to the furniture. 

“You gotta structure this long term. We’re here until the sun burns out, right? Be smart about it and add up the odds.” 

I had. A million times. Every night in the nineties, back when I was all about getting the death in life just right. “Maximum masquerade” we had called it. Like it was a fucking life hack. “Do the math,” we had snarled at that thin-blooded cruiser couple in Tanto who fed off teens full of self-loathing and cheap amphetamines. Not sustainable. 


So I did the math again while Emelie unwrapped a new phone and called back to tell the Akalias how to sneak the concrete bags into the cellar over the next week.

There had been 112 daytime villa burglaries in our area in 2014 (according to the most recent statistics). 7086 villas on Lidingö. The comparatively remote location of our postmodern mansion combined with the appearance that we were never at home during daytime would make it a tempting target. I didn’t need a calculator to figure she was right.  

I had a decade left, tops, at my current level of security. And that was excluding fuckups and hunters. And friends. That’s the statistic we’re the most familiar with. It’s always someone you know that ends you. Odds were so bad that even my carefully cultivated zero-fucks-given persona couldn’t accept them. It was high time to nail this haven down and go for an industrial-grade reinforced concrete coffin-pipe sunk 3.9 meters deep, hidden hatch and all. 


The Akalias were a thoroughly fishy construction company consisting of five paperless workers recently out of Abu Dhabi. They had arrived in Stockholm by way of Marseilles and a thousand degradations over the course of a long transit year they never spoke about. Emelie said they had met and bonded in a shipping container filled with their own shit and the charred remains of one of their brothers. Now they were doing safe rooms for the undead in Lidingö. Not that they knew that. So their public non-existence was useful. They were nursed and protected and kept meticulously confused. Someone was probably making sure they stayed on the immigration department’s watch list, so they’d stay scared and never talk to the cops. It might even have been Emelie puppeteering them. No paper trail. They were illegal enough to even get to see one of my faces. We were all hiding from something bigger than ourselves and that made me feel safe when it came to the small things. So the Akalias were called in to do crossbeam armoring for my “coffin.” No use in arguing.

She was so worried about the state of it. She had thoroughly tested its constructional integrity with me. The third time she broke the hidden walk-in closet was a month ago. It was Swedish midsummer and the endless days made us nauseous and lazy. We stayed awake. The sun beating on the black-slate roof so hard we there imagining the painful buzzing in our heads was the rain of photons. God’s daily storm of light. The light of a sun we would outlive if we were exceptional, if we were perfect. 

Summer in the north. The pressure to perform in those hours of hot gloom is a killer. You need to hit the clubs like a hunter, find a victim, and close in under an hour. And the fucking circumstances: huge herd, anxious, self-conscious, outdoors, everyone watching each other. Cool, judgmental fashion ravers in Whyred and Fifth Avenue. 

This country hates our kind purely by virtue of its longitude. The only time the Swedes grow reckless is when the sun sets no more than three-four hours before it rises again. No time to plan or stalk. So hard, so fast, so good when it works. 


So we whiled away the long gloom of anticipation before the hunt pretending to fuck like a suburban couple, red satin sheets and plastic tarps under the mattress hiding the blood-cum stains. We made a point of being seen sometimes. Not when we went all the way of course. Not when we drank from each other. That we did in the walk-in. She screamed as I sucked and threw me straight through the solid pine wall as she came. That’s why she worried so much. We had each other’s blood inside. We were one and I wasn’t safe. 


The Akalia coughed out a harsh Semitic sentence for each blow. Unfamiliar, old words. The soft look in its blood-whet eyes as it finally got me pinned was unmistakable. Satisfied relief. Its peaceful expression was a mirror of my victory face. This was what I looked like all those times I closed with a blood doll and put him in the cab. When my whole being knew I’d made it through one more night. Peace. Expectation. Lust. I had always imagined this was a shared feeling. That my partner was just as excited as me, that they shed their blood in my mouth willingly. Eagerly. Only human shame and guilt made them protest and struggle. Deep inside, they really wanted it. Horny little animals. It was a lie, of course, but a necessary one. A self-deception I believed right up until that moment.  The warped reflection of myself in the thing’s bearing made the fantasy impossible. Insight hit me full force as I felt the first stirrings of lust in my dead groin. 

My will was no longer my own. I tried to break away from those wet brown eyes, but it was useless. I already loved the disgusting thing that was killing me. I loved the way its tongue slopped my juice off the polished concrete, the way it crawled patiently towards my almost bloodless form, legs twisted in impossibly arachnid angles. I was ready to surrender this long night to my surprise lover. The Blood was not. It willed my most sensual feedings back into my mind, the ones that made me push precious blood straight to my cock. The memories that came flooding back were not my own. They belonged to my victims, still half alive in my undying bloodstream. They belonged to my victims, still half alive in my undying bloodstream. Sara Johansson’s shameful memory of the one time she drunkenly consented to fuck her best friend Magnus. Six years of complete trust broken as he clumsily came in her aching ass. Johan Edenborg in sixth grade, hiding his erection from his hairless showering soccer-team. I forced myself to take a deep breath. Hemoglobin pushing out with the oxygenated blood, heart spasming with the force of an engine piston. Hot blood squirted into my groin, all the tattered dead memories of my horniest victims bursting into necrotic erectile tissue. The Akalia sniffed it out in a second and launched itself at me. The metal bars through my chest held me. The loss of blood made me slow. I could only watch as the dead inhuman chewed through my Zegna suit trousers to get to the good stuff. The breath I took to push the blood came out in a gurgling high-pitched scream as crooked sharp brown teeth chewed into the base of my hard cock. It looked at me with pleading wet eyes, suddenly just as horny as I was. A sick reminder of the abuse porn me and Emelie made a decent living off in the late 90’s. Screaming in lust from the concentrated spunk in my groin-blood, the Akalia started to wriggle out of its dirty jeans, still gagging on my bleeding junk. It let go only to suck in air, preparing to turn its centuries-dormant sexual organs into full stiffness.
I wouldn’t be two decades into the night if I hadn’t learned to spot a split-second opportunity. This was it. The echoes of all that lust-juice, focused by my Blood’s inherent seductive vice, coupled with the creature’s perverse but oh-so-human appetite overtook its cold animalistic mind for a few heartbeats. Its eyes went blank as blood no longer fueled its dominance over me. One heartbeat was all I needed. All of the Blood I had left in me screamed back into my muscles as I grabbed for one of the bars through my chest and pushed it into the curly head of black oily hair working between my legs. Lucky shot hit the thing just right and crashed through bone. Its skull had turned almost impossibly dense and hard over an eternity of cold nights under cloudless Anatolian skies. But it was down. It wasn’t gonna stay that way for more than a minute. The next moments are a blur. Pushing the metal stakes out. Crawling for the door. The thing already violently thrashing to life. Running. Falling. A neighbor calling out to me. Fuck. There goes four years of masquerade. I came to my senses behind the wheel of the Akalia’s Nissan.

”I’m my own monster”, I thought. ”I was yours, but now I’m all mine.”

Emelie. Deep down I was sad she had failed. All the things I would have to do to her now. It was sickening. Correction: how I felt about what I would do made me frightened. The Blood stirred in all the wrong places as I put pedal to metal, gunning down the E20 towards Slussen, towards an old city falling rapidly into the late summer night. 

Episode 1: Black Dog

So today the first episode of my Vampire: The Masquerade thriller “No Man Is An Island” is out as an improvised audio drama starring Red Moon Roleplaying and Anna-Karin Linder.  

It’s my debut at running a RPG session for broadcast.

Well, almost…

Like any child of 70’s and early 80’s Sweden, my dose of fantastic audiovisual media came less from glitchy pirate copies of Thundercats or Gundam and more from from Swedish Radio’s various amazing radio dramatizations of CS Lewis, Tolkien, Enid Blyton, LLoyd Alexander and other early greats.

The unforgettable Swedish audiobook version of Star Wars aslo bear mentioning. R2D2’s beep told you when it was time to turn the page.

So anyways, it might not have been a too strange idea that the Drakar & Demoner – sessions I ran with my group would make for good listening to someone, right? I tried recorded my first trpg actual plays as GM in 1987 or so on a series of 5 C90 tapes on a portable cassette radio.

It stank. My voice was embarrassing, I hesitated too much, my acting was flat and annoying, my descriptions incoherent and everyone talking in each others mouths, and there was that one player that insisted on talking about school or the Björklöven game that weekend. I hope they are lost forever.

Full of teen certainty and pride I wrote off Roleplaying for radio, and with it concluded ALL MEDIALIZATION OF ROLEPLAYING IS UTTER SHITE and absolutely not that my GM’ing and group were a bit shite.  

Truth is we sucked so hard I never did another try. Until now that is. Hope my skills have improved somewhat.

I think Red Moon has again transcended their genre, and created something that runs more like the high production Swedish radio dramas that ran on sunny afternoons throughout the endless early 80’s summers. If significantly less child friendly.

First part has a lot of me talking but that kinda comes with the territory of running the intro as a police manhunt set smack in the middle of the G20 London summit protests. The players take way more space as the plot, and the blood, thickens in later episodes.

Just like in audio drama, music without lyrics plays a huge part in crafting a Tabletop Roleplaying mood and drive. Even if these sessions are recorded without a live soundtrack I always Imagined I was running it to Lola Zaza’s Vampire tracks. And that’s exactly what you will get, thanks to Red Mood getting thumbs up from Paradox to use the music from the discontinued Vampire visual novel.

I hope we’ll be able to commission Ossian and Zaza for some new tracks for a possible maybe season 2.

So please take a moment, put your Walkman headphones on, and enjoy an hour with me in a world under a Red Moon, where the shadows are longer and no one is safe.

Francis, Paul and Gabrielle

Below you find recordings of the three pertinent interviews conducted by Sgt. Anna Kitwara and Cpt. Isaq Kahn during the merger of Special Operations Group 12 and 13 to form a new team within the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit. The recruiters know what they will be hunting. The candidates do not.

Tune in this Friday and find out how the three veterans of the London Bombing investigations work together in the field in the first proper chapter – “Operation Glencoe”.

Also tutorial sessions on the character generation system of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition.

Preludes in V5

If you’re an old Vampire: The Masquerade player, you probably remember the “Prelude” chapters in the 1st, 2nd and Revised (3rd) editions of the core book. To many ST’s Preludes seemed a bit off (a structure of play you use only once during a Chronicle) and somewhat pretentious. I loved the sense of connection to mortality they gave characters and that they were often more dramatic than later sessions.

If you have checked out the three narrative character creation sessions (Francis, Paul and Gabrielle) Red Moon Roleplaying podcasts of our Second Inquisition chronicle “No Man Is An Island” , you’ve probably already figured out I’m still a huge fan of the concept of playing your way through character generation rather than just crunching numbers and juggling concepts with the other Players and the Storyteller. It fits especially for a Podcast game focused on character drama, thrills and BBC cop drama level of authentic-ish detail.

The job-interview style of Prelude I use in the pod is not the same as the one here. It’s another template of Prelude.

This one is about the last day of your life.


I really wanted to get Preludes into the character generation chapter of V5, but in the end it was a darling that needed to be killed. Including it in core would bloat the chapter and make the character generation process seem like a too daunting process.

That doesn’t mean Preludes are not pure gold, or that their importance for the development of TRPG’s should be understated. I partially blame the technique for the explosion of “Freeform” and later “Jeepform” in Sweden in the early – mid 90’s. The quick scene-by-scene structure and heavy reliance on player (rather than Storyteller) descriptions are virtually identical to much of Freeform.

Here are my notes for the Prelude sub-chapter knocked into some kinda playable structure. It’s my attempt to take some of the techniques from Freeform and Nordic LARP workshopping and feed them back into the system I contend inspired them. Use and abuse it.

Like all advanced systems in V5, it’s very much optional.

Enjoy, remember your first idea is always good enough when you improvise or roleplay and try not to do like Miss X, one of my old high angst-drama players and walk out into the sun before the game actually begins.

Also, don’t miss the first proper session of No Man Is An Island this Friday!

Unpublished storyboard sketch for the V5 Toreador photoshoot in LA.
Concept and styling: Mary “Twisted Lamb” Lee
Art: Fiona Cribben


YOUR LAST NIGHT – A PRELUDE FORMAT

A prelude consists of a series of short scenes where the Storyteller and the Player tell the story of the Character’s last day of life together. It works best if it’s done in a focused, serious and almost ritual manner. Sit across from your player so you have eye contact. Dim the lights. Play some appropriate music in the background and start running through the script of the Prelude. For most characters the example script below will create a series of interesting scenes and choices, but many ST’s want to write Prelude scripts tailored to their Chronicle. Always make the script your own and insert local detail, sounds, sights along with the characters and terrible events you are about to narrate. After you have run “last day” preludes a few times you may want to experiment with a different sequence of events. Examples include running a session as a Wake (see The Wake box), as a series of interviews about the character, an interrogation with the character about how she ended up next to two bloodless corpses or a series of scenes dealing with the key life-events in the characters existence, from birth, first loves, betrayal of ideals, marriage, divorce and ending in a compressed last-day type Prelude scene.


A Prelude is per definition a horror story. No matter if the mortal is caught unawares or has been prepared by the Kindred for years, the moment her heart slows down and the Embrace of death sets in is always traumatic and nothing can prepare her for the things SHE will do once death has passed and the Hunger sets in. In the Prelude the player is mortal, alive, weak and about to have her life shattered, so play up the horror and the personal drama in the Prelude. This is where you get the chance to tell a story where the vampire is the unknown monster and the player human, before the tables turn and the player becomes the monster. Give her the mortal perspective to give depth her journey through the night.

A Prelude should be fairly quick. Aim for no more than 20-30 minutes and if you have more than 3 players around the table you should consider letting other players act as supporting characters

LIFE

“It’s the last day of your life. As ordinary a day as any day can be. You were probably unaware this was it, but it was. It was an ordinary day. Where did you wake up to see the morning one last time?”

The player (or players if two of them are a couple, or friends or whatever) describes her character’s surroundings. It can be home, in a sofa at work, at a lovers, in a foreign country, it doesn’t really matter, but it dictates where the rest of the Prelude is set, the social circumstances and so on.

The ST can help out by asking additional questions like: “Is there anyone there with you?”, “where in town is your place / hotel / lovers place”, “as you look around, what items mean the most to you, tell us about them”. Keep the mood nostalgic and focus on the character, what she looks and likes and her immediate surroundings, what she owns and what she values.

“How do you prepare for the day ahead, what are your plans? It’s a weekday, right?”

Let the player narrate how they are going to work, to meet their dealer, to the airport or allow her to protest and say it’s the weekend and they’re going partying or whatever.  

Play out the scene the player has indicated. Ask the player to fill in details and describe what her life and play it up to her. Introduce a character in this scene, perhaps a contact, a person from work. Don’t make it one of the Family characters, but make sure something happens. Perhaps a workmate wants her loan back and the player character can’t pay, perhaps one of the girls the character is seeing behind her partners back shows up at work just minutes before the wife gets there or maybe a sadhu / street preacher jumps her and tells her soul is tainted by something she will do in the future.

At a dramatic point in the scene, have the PC’s device ping her or have her suddenly remember an important meeting.

“Dusk is near. You’re going to meet one of your Family later today. You can’t believe you’ve forgotten it. Who is s/he and what are you going to talk about? Make it something really important.”

Let the player describe this Family person and why this meeting is so important. The The point of the scene is that the meeting will become a crisis or triumph of some kind, an unfinished piece of business for the character to take to an early grave. What the player thinks the meeting will be about doesn’t have to be the truth.

Start playing out the scene, perhaps letting one of the other players around the table play the Family. In a Chronicle where two players play Family this could be a confrontation between the two of them.

After a few exchanges that establish what’s “normal” between the PC and Family person, raise the stakes and twist the story. Perhaps the player said “I’m meeting my significant other to break up with her” and instead you have the partner tell the PC she’s pregnant, will kill himself if she leaves him or something equally dramatic. Always escalate the conflict in this scene far far beyond what the player expected. Don’t be afraid of screaming, tears or violence in this scene. Don’t use dice tho. Just decide what the best dramatic outcome for the scene is. If the player beats or kills his girlfriend just before becoming a vampire that’s great food for drama, just avoid killing the player character.

A triumph in the characters life works just as well as a tragedy. Perhaps the best friend that wants to meet about a job opportunity tells the PC she’ll get a job as creative lead on her dream project or the cheating boyfriend tells her that he’s ended the affair and wants to marry.

The meeting could go also sideways in some non-personal fashion. Perhaps Retainers of the Sire-to be rush in and kidnap them both, the loved one is gunned down in a senseless revenge shooting or perhaps they get a message that their daughter is being hospitalized for a heroin overdose.

In the moment of crisis, the vampires appear. Make sure the scene has progressed to nighttime at this point.  

The Sire

“As you take in the situation, a stranger appears. Something about the way it looks at you is wrong. It’s too still, too hungry and too poised to strike. This is your Sire. The one who will take you into the night. Who is she? Have you met before? Do you know what is about to happen or are you unaware? If you want me to decide all the details, just nod.”

Let the player describe their Sire. It’s likely she has made a decision on what type of Predator and Clan the Sire is. The PC will inherit these qualities after the Embrace and they will have a massive effect of the way the character develops. To make the scene better, ask the player to describe the Sire without directly mentioning Clan or Predator type at all. If you are running a Thinblood or Storyteller Prelude, describe the Sire you have in mind. The Sire could appear in the scene in any way you want, but the intention is that the arrival of the Sire somehow breaks the scene. A thuggish Sire shakes the pair down for money and the Family runs away or is killed, the stare of the childlike figure across the streets makes your sister nervous and she looks at her phone and needs to leave, a lover reacts with violent jealousy and runs away as a gorgeous Sire walks up and kisses the PC on the mouth, a workmate feels uneasy in the loremaster Sire’s refined and educated company and has to call it a night, or the Sire walks into the room where the PC and the Family person are tied up and puts the Family member to sleep with chloroform or her whispering voice. No matter how, the PC is alone or alone with her Sire when the scene ends.

“What do you think about the meeting with your Family? What would you say if you could say one last thing to him/her? You can’t though, because death is close, in the shape of your Sire. How do you deal with what just happened? What do you do next?”

The next scene can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. But first make sure that during it, your player lands in what the crisis / happy moment with the Family means and where she would have taken it if she had lived.

In this scene let the player describe what she does and respond with descriptions. Perhaps she cries and pleads, wanders town to get drunk to celebrate / drown her sorrows, tries to break out or enthusiastically pursues her Sire. No matter what happens, it’s in vein and death finds her.  

The Embrace is the most final of the Prelude scenes, this is where the character gets to say goodbye to life and enters the nightmare world of the Kindred. The Embrace is best narrated by the ST, while the player describes what she feels. The details of the Embrace is best left to the ST, a feeling of powerlessness is key to making it scary.

Describe the events leading up to the Embrace. Maybe the mugger takes her right there in the alley or drags her off to her sewer lair to do the deed, the stunning Sire takes the character for one last night of dining and dancing as a mortal or maybe the Sire starts to extract the characters blood with medical equipment. Make the description of the embrace as sexy, raw, poetic or cold as you need it to be. Don’t hold back here.

“Breathe after me. In. Out. In. Just like that. In out. Be aware of your breathing. Lokk into my eyes and continue to breathe. Breathe slower and slower with me. In…. Out….You are starting to feel faint, out of breath and lightheaded. Your sire pulls back for a moment and looks into your eyes. What are you feeling? The Sire looks at you and whispers “Do you want to die as a human, or live as a monster?” What do you say to your Sire? These are your last words alive.”  

Change the Sire’s question to something suitable or let her be silent. The important part is the players response, that should tell you a lot about the character’s attitude to unlife. No matter if the player pleads, cries or accepts death the Sire continues the deed. It’s too late to save her she explains. Even if she chooses death as a mortal, the Sire goes through with it, or another vampire arrives at the scene and Embraces the dying PC when the “Sire” looses her nerve. Then describe death.

“Breathe with me. Fast. desperate. In-out-in-out-in-out. There’s a soft dull pain, like the worst heartbreak you have ever felt. Then a quiet emptiness creeping in from the edges of your vision. You remember the best and the worst thing you did in life. What are they and how do you feel about them?”

Let the player describe her “life pass in front of her” and focus on some core questions like the above or just “What mattered the most to you in life?”. After she has described this treasured thing just say.

“As you slip away, what do you believe will happen? Do you believe in an afterlife? In God or reincarnation or something else?”

Her answer is useful of course, but no matter what, they are wrong about Death.

“Breathe out. Out. No air in your lungs. All stillness. Your last words slip away from you, your last wish will never be granted. Emptiness. Absolute silence. No time. No space. No breath. No angels or devils, just a dusty endless emptiness and a grey city full of masks.”

“But just as peace and emptiness fills you and a cold wetness covers your face there’s a sharp pain in your chest. Your Sire bleeds into your mouth and involuntarily, you begin to Drink. It tastes like ashes and stings like a live-wire. Boom. Boom. Your dead heart begins to beat, hard, like it’s tearing out of your chest and then your soul explodes flooding your body with sensation. No heartbeat. But still you open your eyes. You are still there, still you. But you are not alone. Inside the blood your Sire fed you, something stirs and wriggles, an ancient worm whispering of palaces in sand and empires of blood long lost. It’s an old thing, dead and hungry that rises. It takes a while to realise the thing. Is you. And you Hunger. You wish you had never woken up. This Hunger is much, much worse than death, and you really know what you are talking about”

Next up is a terrible choice. Describe the scene again, but this time tinted by the peternaturally sharp senses of a vampire. It can be beautiful or frightening, but the night is suddenly alive with a myriad sounds, colors and smells, all feeding the Hunger. If the scene includes a Family or other character, that NPC is pretty much fucked. If the Sire is still around she might help you to your victim or present an animal or bagged blood .

“You need to Drink. Who is your first victim? Do you take what is offered or do you fight the impulse to feed?”

Let the player describe what she does. Even if the PC rushes out into the streets, feeds from an animal or a stranger, do your best to put one of her Family (ideally the one she had the intense meeting with earlier during the Last Day) in her way and watch her consume a part of her living days as the Beast ceases control and a feeding frenzy ensues. Describe the details of the feeding closely, with gross attention to medical detail. There is nothing romantic about a first feeding, it’s unskilled, sloppy and almost certainly ends with the death of the first victim.

“Suddenly the pain just goes away. The limp thing in front of you is the source of all the joy in the world and you feel yourself grow excited, pumped, high on blood and power. This. An escape from death, more real than life ever was. This makes it all worth it. Then you see the thing in your arms clearly.”

If the PC shows no remorse over her first feeding it might be a good idea to start her off a point lower Humanity than you planned since the player apparently enjoys being a monster. Let her react as she wants and take note of it.

This is a great place to end the Prelude if you plan to start playing a Thinblood Cronicle or want to start playing immediately after the Embrace and have the players experience the first chaotic nights as a vampire and their possible introduction into Kindred society. If this is your players (any of your players) first Vampire Chronicle, we strongly recommend you to play the whole sequence of event out as the first Chapters in your Chronicle. If you are creating older vampires, even ones just a few months into the Masquerade, continue with the last three scenes of the Prelude. If you are playing from the Embrace, use the last three scenes as inspiration for your first session, but try to get the Coterie together as quickly as possible so they can experience these things together.

In the next scene the PC plays out her first meeting with another vampire that is not her Sire. This character could be a future contact with the Camarilla or the Anarchs, a mysterious tempter or a mentor in the ways of the blood. Be sure to add this character to the relationship chart as she is described or add her after the Prelude.

“Nights pass. Blood flows. Alone or with your Sire, you start to understand the limits of your new existence. But there’s so much you don’t know yet. How many others like you are out there? Where do you come from and what is the purpose of all this living death?  One night you meet another of your kind. Where do you meet her and how do you spot her?”

If you want the player to decide who this first encounter is, let her, but many ST’s have plans on how to introduce the PC’s to the world of vampires and the characters they want to appear in the story. Having the stranger be one of the other PC’s is a great way to start pointing the Prelude towards its conclusion – the forming of the Coterie. If that is the case, the ideal is to have that other player play her character in the scene.

Narrate the meeting scene, describe how the other Kindred reacts when she sees the player. Examples include walking into a bathroom stall to find a sloppy feeding in progress, realizing that the three Ugandan businessmen at the bar haven’t touched their drinks, being introduced to a member of the Primogen by your Sire, being called by a mysterious voice to the attic of a hospital, where the Elder that has chosen you as her inheritor waits and so on. It’s a good idea to insert some action into the scene, maybe allowing the use one of her clan disciplines to get the player to try them out before play begins in earnest.

“Another of your kind. A chance for some answers and a different perspective. What do you say? What do you ask?”

This NPC is best used to give a perspective different from the Sire (if she is present in the PC’s life) and make sure to point out that the answers are not exactly the same as her Sire has given her before. If the Sire is Camarilla, perhaps make the first other vampire the PC meets be an Anarch or an Autarch critical to the Ivory Tower. If you do want to create an Anarch fanatic or a closeted Camarilla member, let the NPC be hostile and unsympathetic or have her be another member of the same sect as the Sire who shows the PC another face of the society.

“Meet us there, the stranger says. This is a lot to take in. There are other like you, but will they be able to understand you? What does the stranger say to convince you to meet with the the Kindred who will become your allies? What hopes and fears do you have about the meeting. What does your Sire think about you connecting with others of your kind?”

In the last scene, that ideally carries over directly into the first scene of the Chronicle proper, we meet the rest of the Coterie. This scene is important to run with the whole group present. You may want to run through your individual Preludes and then start the next session with this part to kick things off. Meetings like this are a regular occurance in Kindred unlife and a good way to kick off a Chapter if you have nothing better planned.

“The meeting place feels secure. Where are you? Who is there first? Who arrives next? Describe yourselves and how you appear at this first meeting.”

This will take a little while, but be sure not to interrupt and let all players describe their characters in detail. Encourage them to write down some details as they come up with them. Descriptions don’t have to be detailed, just a few words and impressions are plenty. This scene is made for the characters to have a chance to talk among themselves and decide a little bit about what the Coiterie is all about, what the characters think about each other and what the first goals of the Coterie are.

“The first subject of conversation is ambition. What is this Coterie trying to achieve together? What is the first step towards that and what obstacles lie in your way?”

Since you know the rough aims of the Coterie from the first steps in the Prelude Session, have fun playing your characters align themselves towards that goal. There may be resistance and internal divisions, sure, but in the end the Coterie agrees on a course of action and the Chronicle can begin. This first action should be something simple that the group needs to do. It could be running the Wights out of an abandoned hospital they are going to claim as their communal Haven, going in front of the Prince to be officially recognized as the inheritors of a Primogen Elder, infiltrating a biker gang to take over their leadership and assets or making a grotesque pact to kill each other’s families to save them from a fate worse than death.

“Sun is rising. Where do you sleep? Your mind is spinning, full of memories of a human life you know will soon be forgotten. When you think back on your Last Day, what was most important? What will you carry with you into eternity?”

In the last step, have the players describe their Havens and how they drift off into slumber. This is a great place to wrap the Prelude up with some poetic words or a song that captures all the impressions and emotions of the Prelude.

Be sure to thank the player and instruct her in the final steps of Character Creation – applying the Vampiric traits to the mortal character you have created and mapping out the relationships inside the Coterie. Remind the player that they are free to adjust their character creation choices now after the Prelude. Perhaps it felt wrong thet the character had a handgun and knew how to use it (Firearms), but had no skill in Craft, despite being describes as a ceramic artist, so the player wants to move the Firearms points to the Craft skill. This is one of the reasons you run preludes, to test out what is an interesting character to play.   

In the next step, apply the Predator type that best reflects the Players actions in the Prelude or make it the same as the Sire. Then, finally, apply the appropriate bonuses from the Clan and choose Kindred merits inspired by the Prelude.

The Majority

Photo: John Paul Bichard Models: Hampus Ahlbom, Henrik Lillier

A WoD interlude. Unpublished.

I don’t belong here. I’m cursed with this outsider’s clarity. The inherent vice of my “condition” reminds me constantly of the hidden machinery guiding civilization towards its inevitable end. We are the secret councils that rule your Kings and Presidents. We are the back room deals and brutally enforced conformity that keeps the system afloat.

By night I see the polite facade dipping beneath the surface for a moment, showing me a vast sea of cold, dark truth. Where others see budget-cuts and privatization, I see the unbroken night-reign of monstrous kings. An endless history of immortal oppression.

By day, the minutia of modern life turns your gaze to the pavement. Bowed and broken by arbitrary professional and personal duties you’re unable to spot the patterns in the cracked asphalt of your life. But here, in the absolute absence of normalcy, I dare you to strain your eyes and look straight into the night. You see it? Patterns coalesce, break apart and give way to wordless understanding.

In the light of the you-tube riot-fires you catch a glimpse of brutal, old men commanding knightly orders of riot-police to ride bloodied through the raging human mass. The flickering embers of a hundred bushfire-wars light up skies pregnant with rain and streaked with charcoal-smoke rising from the last burning patches of rainforest. Blind prophets point to instant communications, ecological awareness, drone armies, rising population-curves and extended lifespans and declare this an age of wonders. I’m not impressed. Knowing that such progress means nothing but more slave-blood for the hungry gods of night is sobering, to say the least.

It’s past midnight and we can’t turn back the clock. The oceans rise. The last elephants and tigers will be dead within a decade. The rich piss on the poor. Millions throw their lives away in violent slavery to a long-dead God. Hate and fear and intolerance are everywhere. Moralism, fascism and racism disguised as social protectionism will soon be the order of the day. We will make sure it will. It’s all a part of the Blood’s plan.

You shrug and chalk it all up to human nature. You really believe you are masters of your own fate? Victims of nothing more sinister that your own insatiable greed?

I told an old hobo a little bit about my own perspective on things the other night. She smoked all my Camel Activates while I talked. The bag-lady hobbled away before I was finished, her gait measurably slower and more intent than when I found her. Yesterday, on my way to the club, I found her bloated body curled up behind the loading-bay of ICA Högdalen. Her throat was torn open. Glass bottle. Suicide. I could see the hesitation-marks.

I laughed and called Sabina before the cops. Got her voicemail. Relic of the nineties that I am I left an actual message.

“Just wanted to tell you the bet fell my way this time. She couldn’t handle it. No breach. Not even a note. Not a fucking word actually. She just crawled away and died when I told her how things are. No, I didn’t have time to… No. The juice is crap anyway Sabine. Double next time, ok?”

So yeah, so much for full disclosure.

You still wanna know what I am? Who you are? Who rules the world? Seriously. Ok, get a little closer and I’ll whisper it to you. Yes. Just like that handsome. Now just hold still now and shut your fucking mouth.

You feel it? The rising dark? That’s the truth right there.

Let me tell you the only truth that matters.

You are the minority.

The boy spoke for the first time since sunset. Voice hoarse as he was being drained.

Who?

The living.

So who are the majority?