So, slightly born out of recent exalted stuff not going anywhere I was interested in, having one of my "I'm really only going to see the sort of things that interest me if I run them" mood then realizing that doesn't compensate for wanting to actually play in stuff involving things that interest me for a change (I'm both online and with my tabletop group pretty much always, always the gm).. had me sit down again and ponder what I actually would like to run. So, as perhaps driven by way to many Byzantium runs in Crusader Kings II, my fondness for that whole era, and my love of OWOD Vampire, a vampires in Constantinople thing.
So, yes, there was a full out supplement for Vampire called such, and while I think my absolute favourite of the entire line as far as theme and setting richness, npcs, the like, owning it is not necessary (though if you do, thumbs up). I'll write a more involved précis if this goes anywhere.
The central notion is this. The year is 1198, and the Eastern Roman Empire's state is more precarious than it has been in over a century, the venal dynasty of the Angeloi undoing much of the strength returned to the land by the Komnenian restoration. Seljuk, Arab, Bulgar and Latin circle around it as ever more ravenous threats. Yet for all that, Constantinople herself remains the Queen of Cities, the golden city, the greatest of Medieval Christendom, populated on a scale mind bogglingly impossible to the Western barbarians who may as well be still scrabbling in dirt and filth by comparison. It is yet almost a touch of heaven on earth, a small piece of eternity made manifest.
Which is as it should be, when the guiding will behind it is itself eternal. And undead. And so the fearful, half maddened whispers go, divine.
Empire and city both are the child of Michael the Patriarch, a vampire several millennia old with a dream so powerful it has imprinted itself on the very least of the unliving in Byzantine shadows. That it has become a Dream, and almost a religion. That vampires could use their eternity to build something at last eternal, something greater than themselves, beyond themselves, something to not simply endure through history, but to define it. Some say that for damned, blood drinking things to have such ambitions is a blasphemy against their nature and God Himself, and Michael himself has been punished for it with a growing madness. That as his empire decays, so too does his mind and spirit, that his fall, will accelerate its fall. Yet within the city itself, in his increasingly rare, overwhelming presence, he is a god, an archangel, his Dream made manifest in himself. And it is easier to be overwhelmed perhaps, than to think about the storm of plots that swirl around him, for and against the Dream, for and against the empire. Of smaller, pettier, personal feuds and schemes born of the grudges that lives carried into centuries can make fester and roil, such that their expressions are conflagrations as destructive as any crash of grand gambits.
The center of wealth, of religion, of art, of culture, and power, the vamipres of Constantinople contest over everything from lives to souls to a golden throne, enrapt from an almost obsessively mystical culture, drunk on decadence and glory, however fading, as much as the readily available blood of its people.
So, the campaign! It's 1198, the Fourth Crusade, if it happens, is still just some distant nightmare beyond conceptualizing, but the empire is certainly not on solid ground, both openly and in the shadows. The prospective players are amongst the lords of the night that in some cases perhaps helped build this whole empire up in the first place, yet may find themselves powerless in the end to arrest its fall.
Which is to say, I'd like to run an elder vampire game. I haven't fully settled on character creation yet, but players would be vampires of the 6th generation, no older than, let's say, the 6th century CE (and no younger than, let's say, the early 10th century), and unless you have just a truly awesome idea for "recently arrived elder" (not impossible, I suppose), with centuries behind them thereby to establish a place of power and influence in the empire as a whole. Not a first come first served thing.
I'd want it to be somewhat sandboxy, with characters having agendas they might want to initiate or pursue even as plot otherwise happens to interact with or not, and in my experience, that is somewhat easier to happen when characters are actually powerful enough to be able to have and act on agendas of their own.
It would be a system game, as frankly I just prefer those, though generally that's for resolving things outside of the bounds of social interaction. The system will mostly be the Dark Ages: Vampire one, might house rule some things, but otherwise, anything from it, from the various books connected to it, feel free to run by me. Haven't decided on a rating, that will likely come out of overall player preference. Character wise, because the setting is both historically and fictionally a rich one, I don't really need more from you guys than a backstory, though I would like some detail there on what you got up to over the centuries and your particular inclinations now. Happy to help with noting who potential rivals, friends and enemies might be, though as old as fuck immortal nightwalkers, if you want to come up with some of your own, that is also cool.
Having been embraced outside the empire but eventually having come to and established yourself within it, also entirely fine.
Basically, the empire is decaying, do you want to do anything about that? The enmity with the Catholic Church/Venice/various Latin (Western) Kingdoms is getting worse. Do you want to do anything about that? The Seljuks and others are encroaching, how about that? Do you want to simply immerse and lose yourself in the culture? In the ever spawning religious debates and heresies? Pursue feuds and alliances with your fellow immortals? Look into this whole "Michael is insane" thing (though many in the city don't even conceptualize that as possible)? Embrace wholeheartedly the Patriarch's angelic imagery instead and find a place for yourself at the right hand of Heaven (which, many do)? Bolster the Dream? Weaken it? Destroy it? Expand your own power and influence to ever wider scales? Explore esoteric magics, mysticsm or philosophy?
Any clan that is not the Baali or infernal vampires are fine, though with the age range for starting embrace, Tremere don't really work. Otherwise, even the Assamites occasionally looked at the Byzantines as a potential hedge against the Western kingdoms, or even the Turks, who not all of the clan were great big fans of (the medieval assamites were a lot less monolithic, to put it one way).
It is worth noting that the Tzimisce of the Byzantine empire are very different than the main branch of the clan, and much more philosophers, mystics and monks than the gore soaked freakish warlords the rest of the clan cleaves to being (and there's some rivalry and hate as a result).
Anything else I will mention as we go and as questions come up, just wanting to see if there's actual interest before doing that much more typing.