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Author Topic: Interest Check: Ancient Vampires in the Byzantine Empire (Old World of Darkness)  (Read 2614 times)

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Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

So, some months back I pitched a OWoD/Dark Ages elder vampire game set in late 12th century Constantinople, and while there was an initial sizable burst of enthusiasm, ultimately I ended up with three completed characters, which wasn't really sustainable to start a campaign with, so that was kinda that. The suggestion was that it was a slow time for the board and to try it again some months later. Life got fairly busy in the interim, but, less so at current, so I figured what the hell, why not give it one more try.

The describing the initial premise to see if there was any interest went like this:

The central notion is this. The year is 1197, 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.



« Last Edit: February 17, 2015, 10:42:07 AM by Kolbrandr »

Offline AndyZ

Absolutely keeping an eye on this.

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Got PM  count me in.   I assume the character approved prior is still good to go, I hunt her down here and submit. 

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Well, let's see how the checking for interest phase goes first before you put your character back up. They're otherwise still fine though, just give it a bit.

Offline RubySlippers

Have to dust off my PDF's, I'm interested.

Offline Sahariel

I am very  interested in this game. I still have my old background, or I could make an original character, if there's still room.

Online Lockepick

Posting interest! I've had a Ravnos cult leader idea I've wanted to play for a while. Just have to remember how oWoD works!

Offline Blythe

Tentatively interested, possibly with a Malkavian 'prophet' or a perhaps a vicious Brujah theologian. What kind of posting rate would you be expecting for this?

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Not really in to system games online, but as I used to play oWoD table top, I look forward to following this when I have the chance. :)

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Tentatively interested, possibly with a Malkavian 'prophet' or a perhaps a vicious Brujah theologian. What kind of posting rate would you be expecting for this?

Ideally I'd prefer a post a day sort of rate as a minimum once (well, if) the game gets going, I've seen wayyyy too many things die in slowdown.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Not really in to system games online, but as I used to play oWoD table top, I look forward to following this when I have the chance. :)

Fair enough, just personally not into freeform.

Offline Blythe

Ideally I'd prefer a post a day sort of rate as a minimum once (well, if) the game gets going, I've seen wayyyy too many things die in slowdown.

Ah, understandable. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to keep pace with that, so I'll need to withdraw my interest. Regardless, you've got a great game idea here, and I wish you well with it and much fun. ^^

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Just waiting to see if the last of the people that completed a character last time wanted to give this another go, otherwise there look to be five of you or so expressing interest, so I'll put up some more indepth stuff in a bit.

Online Orange Marmalade

Was talking with you a bit last time this came around but was never able to decide on a concept... still interested though, and have a little bit more free time than I did before.

I'm reading through Constantiople by Night right now just to try to reorient myself with what the time period was like for Cainites.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Alright, I don't think I'm going to hear back from that other person anytime soon, so, may as well forge onwards. Barring the two people who finished up characters from last time (and one other fellow who shot me a character background), the very first thing I want from you guys is your character background. No stats, just background. Ideally pm it to me first. Now, a lot of the setting information here can be found in Constantinople by Night, which is easily findable on pdf and really to this day remains arguably the best supplement white wolf ever put out for any of its game lines as far as richness of material.

However, I'm not going to want to force people to do a read through (I just recommend it for your own benefit), so, from the last thread, some setting overview:

So the thing to note especially about how the city is run on the vampire side of things, is that it is somewhat off standard from much of the cainite (era term for vampire) world, particularly the west, reinforcing that sort of otherness of the society.

Most notably, Michael as the sole dominant figure in the style of a Prince of the city is not how Constantinople or the organization of vampires in the empire worked for much of its existence. He was (and in some ways still is, his force of personality just dominates it these days) part of a trinity of rulers. Called in fact, that, the Trinity. Michael loves him some Christianity parallels.

Originally Michael's Dream was bolstered by his partners/lovers that he came to Constantinople with him back when Constantine was making it his capital, the Tzimisce called the Dracon, and Antonius the Ventrue, both methuselah (several millennia old vampires, they are to elders what elders are to everyone else) and in a practically unique power sharing relationship with him. Michael served as the inspiration and overall guide for the Dream expressed in control of culture and the church both, the Dracon kept it living and dynamic philosophically as far as control over the more mystical side of the city, the monastic orders, and academia, while Antonius worked to ensure it as a day to day reality in the world as far as influence and temporal power in the political and military sphere. The Dracon and Antonius would ultimately fall into a feud that would end with Antonius killed and the Dracon self exiled from guilt and shame, but the society they built to govern the vampires of the Eastern Empire, along with their positions, would remain.

In theory thereby, Constantinople is governed still by the Trinity, with two of the childer of Antonius and the Dracon filling their places and maintaining their overall responsibilities. Overall governance for the city comes out of accord between them when needed, with each family having a judge/proxy called a Quaesitor to otherwise rule on squabbles or concerns for smaller issues. In practice things are more fractious and fluid, with boundaries of influence, duty and control not always respected. Beyond that, the rare times where Michael appears to proclaim anything directly as opposed to being represented by a proxy, it may as well be law. 

Of more particular note is the family system that was designed to express the original intent. Clan in Constantinople is defined by the great figure that established the presence of that clan. So the Toreador are the Michaelite Toreador, the Ventrue are the Antonian Ventrue, and the Tzimisce, because the Dracon was something of a contrarian, are the Obertus Tzimisce. Members of the clan can usually be traced to that defining figure, ultimately, even across the empire, and those that can't get functionally adopted into it as needs be. This in part reinforces the idea that all members of the clan must share in the duties and legacy of their family, and also thereby hold some of their authority as a trade off.

Below the three Trinity families are the Scion families. Essentially each Trinity family sponsors various Scion families to aid them in their overall sphere of responsibilities, generally the result of some brood or another from some clan managing to establish themselves in the city with the patronage of the Trinity. It's a somewhat lesser social position, though still one of strong note, but in theory it makes for being able to call on the protection, resources and support of one's sponsor family. It also means they have better odds of getting permission to embrace more childer than vampires outside of a family. It also carries with it what authority comes from having some function of the city/empire delegated down to them. The family is again usually named for the prominent member (who may not be alive anymore), but sometimes for something else that still is otherwise some oblique reference to being a group/its purpose.

The current scion families of note are, starting with those that belong to the Toreador, the Magnus Lasombra, who depending on your perspective manage the Orthodox Church for the Toreador and/or gulled them into giving them control of it, and/or are totally screwing that up. The Malachite Nosferatu, who exist out of one of Michael's genuinely beneficent and even regal acts of repurposing Nosferatu embraces intended as a mockery and punishment, and making them into the source of a strong and proud scion family. The Malachite family are basically something of all purpose agents for Michael himself, at least, again, in the ideal, and regard themselves otherwise as guardians of the Dream, however needed. Finally there are the Setite Children of Judas (their head, not named Judas, it's a half Michael picked name), who look to have no official duty at all, and generally try to constantly corrupt and challenge everyone, but possibly they are held as the test of the strength of the Dream, and that is why they are allowed to remain in the city, and protected for what they do, to an extent (it largely taking the form of trying to make the city's vampires and their mortal charges corrupted and vice ridden, failing from loftier goals). If Michael lets them stay in the city for that reason, it is perhaps a demonstration of his vainglorious, half mad religiosity to want and need such acts. They're otherwise quite hated.

The Antonian Ventrue are less prolific in Scion families, and part of that is simply because it's not as though the Ventrue have it in their nature to enjoy not holding onto all the influence they have directly. Still, of note are the Lexor Brujah, who are tasked with handling the bureaucracy and law of city and empire, and Lady Alexa Theusa, a 5th generation Cappadocian who serves, somewhat, as a quasi mystical councillor to the family, but while she has a family charter and could thereby create her own, she has in the main not done so (unless someone wants to be her childe or something).

The Obertus Tzimisce have the one family, the Baron's Gangrel, who are basically their protectors and enforcers (and are something of the city's muscle and peacekeepers overall), and like the nosferatu, see themselves as guardians.

These are not, it should be said, the only vampires in the city, Constantinople is huge after all, and can support a large vampiric population. These are however the big power blocs with the lion's share of status and power. There are vampires outside of them ranging from everything from a Ravnos artificer to the representatives of Genoa and Venice's vampire courts, to an official representative from the Assamites to the court of the city to all sorts of various and sundry, even the occasional occulted salubri, even clan vampires of the above clans that simply exist outside their scion families.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2015, 10:23:14 AM by Kolbrandr »

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

How is this particularly relevant to you, the player? Basically the canonical 5th generation vampires are in the Ventrue, Tzimisce, Toreador, and Lady Alexa of the Cappadocians. If you want an existing 5th gen sire (to be detailed in a bit), you'd be from one of their families and connected to them thereby. You could always instead be a member of those first three clans adopted into the family, etc. (But if you are making, for instance, a Toreador, there's a certain cachet and resonance in being one of Michael's grandchilder, I would say. As a millennia old 4th generation vampire, not like other of his kids might not be floating about in other parts of the world. *end editorializing*)

If you want to be of a different clan, and particularly of one not noted amongst the scion families, consider that maybe you are the head of your own scion family, as defined by you. I'm entirely amenable to the idea (in which case though, be prepared to spend a bunch of points on status). Ponder out thereby who of the Trinity families yours would be affiliated to, and what your duties might be.

If you're a clan with an existing scion family, you'll want to decide if you're a member of it via adoption or what have you, if you exist outside of it. Or, because things are defined as much by family as clan, if you are a distinct scion family from that one, doing your own thing, connected to a different Trinity family. Or perhaps you're simply a solitary elder who has managed to carve out a place of note for themselves (though that is no small achievement). Or you are the envoy of someone or something. Or you have indeed recently arrived to the city itself. Etc.

Either way, all things to noodle over.

It's worth noting that the Baron's Gangrel are the youngest scion family, so if you go Gangrel, you decidedly predate them, something to consider.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Book wise, this is going to be a system game, so I do need you guys to have given the Dark Ages: Vampire rules a read through at least (not Vampire: the Dark Ages. Dark Ages: Vampire is basically the revised version of the rules, just ignore the setting material there, since they start off in 1230). The 20th anniversary edition, you don't need to buy that when it comes out, and given that I've kinda hated the entire 20th anniversary line, I'm not likely picking it up myself. Game start is otherwise going to be in 1197.

Online Lockepick

Just to clarify: Is it possible for a member of Clan A to be considered part of a Scion Family that is predominantly Clan B? As an example: could a Ravnos be 'adopted' by the Malachite Nosferatu, to work towards the same purpose as them? Though I would understand if they were unable to attain the same status as a card-carrying Nosferatu.

Just checking for my options?

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

It's not really possible. The scion families are each made up of one clan with a fancy name for whoever runs/founded said family basically. You could however be a scion family of the same trinity family and be heavily allied to the Malachite Nosferatu, for instance.

Or you could have the patronage of a scion family or the like, you just wouldn't be considered an actual member of in the sense of being able to say "I am an X", you would more say "I am under the protection of X". Or "I work for X".
« Last Edit: February 17, 2015, 10:33:03 AM by Kolbrandr »

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Some other things to keep in mind. Please remember the no infernal vampires/daimonion/etc. thing and the 6th century CE to 10th century CE as the age range in which your character should have been embraced. The most I bent was a few decades before the 6th century.

Online Lockepick

Is there any particular character sheet or RTJ format you'd like our backgrounds in? Or any idea of how large of a background you're expecting?

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Just type one up and send it to me, it's a character background writeup so honestly, just send as the paragraphs of a character history. Note name and year of embrace before getting into any body of text and all.

As far as length, however long you feel hits all the major points you want to hit, but I would prefer length over brevity.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Feel free also to ask questions about an intended concept first before getting into indepth typing, don't mind answering them.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

As the notion has come up while talking with people, you can certainly have sired childer, and they can certainly be in the city with you (you're all old and crap after all). If you want them to be loyal mind you, take some dots of allies (or plan to take some dots of allies that is).
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 11:53:27 AM by Kolbrandr »

Online Orange Marmalade

Concept is coming together... almost done!