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Legend: The Dark Age

Clint Staples

This is a slightly expanded version of my response to the Fixer-Upper Challenge Episode of D-Infinity Live, in which I took Vampire: The Dark Ages, and made it something different. I will probably develop this enough to run it for a future D-Infinity Plays episode! Maybe even for publication, in the fullness of time. I mean: monsters truing to thrive and survive the dissolution of the Roman Empire and the total upheaval of their worlds and the worlds of men?! It works as a setting!

 

  • As opposed to the Crusades era in which the White Wolf game was set, mine would be set it in the actual Dark Ages. That is the term used by many, but it has begun to fall out of favor. Largely this Darkness reflects the relative dearth of historical sources from the time, but some see it as connoting disdain or dismissal of a very interesting period of history. Of course White Wolf liked it because "World of Darkness/ Dark Ages".
  • Time: Late 5th Century: After the Fall of Rome to the Visigoths, and then the salvation of Rome from the Huns by the Pope, the battle of Chalon, death of Atilla the Hun, etc. The Hunnic conglomeration of Huns, Goths, Gepids, Lombards, and gods-knows which other tribes is dissolving. Hordes of wandering peoples (and Monsters) all over Europe, with Constantinople clinging to Empire in the East, and Rome looking on enviously as things crumble in the West.
  • Britons, Romans, Romano-Britons, Britano-Romans, Franks, Goths, Vandals, Huns, Sarmatians, Persians and many more. The probable time of King Arthur, Beowulf, Hrolf Kraki and more is a generation or less in the future.
  • One of the things that is problematic with the World of Darkness is the time it takes to work out characters. Lots of fun ,if you like that sort of thing, as a player anyway. but a Game-Killer for a GM. I actually ran a game set in the milieu I am describing here, and it was a load of fun, but died because of the time it took me to prep for each session, largely because of the hours it would take to work out NPCs. I would make sure that there was an easy NPC and Character Generator for the system, so that Storytellers will be able to run the game without having to spend hours in prep creating characters and NPCs. And anything that can help a player create characters more easily is a good investment for any game.
  • Another issue I have with the WoD is how the various monstrous "Races" (Vampires, Were-creatures, Wraiths, Fae, and Mortals) all inhabit little boxes of their own and rarely interact. I would allow a mixture of PCs, if the players can come up with a premise. Vampires, Were-creatures, Mages, Fae, Ghosts, even “normal’ humans. and other less renowned monsters. Also see what blending, or at least changing the interactions, of the supernatural “worlds” does. What would happen if the local “Court” were run by werewolves, with vampiric ambassadors, counsellors, visitors, honored guests. Perhaps there might be a mage or ghostly advisor to the local count.
  • I would have all the playable races, and their rules in a single volume. Smaller Chapbooks for individual clans that are completely unnecessary to play the game are fine as extras, so they are there for the completists and fanboys, but should not include any required material to play your character.
  • I would disregard “balance” in character creation in favor of fun. Differing power levels in the same group, as long as people are enjoying themselves. There would be a maximum power level for characters, but people are welcome to come in below that (see some fixes for that when I talk about the system further down). This would allows mortals to play alongside powerful monsters, even for mortals to become something else during the span of the Chronicle, if that is what the player wants to try. The setting, a Europe in the midst of tremendous upheaval, almost apocalyptic in scope, makes mixed groups more likely and probably more optimal.
  • No WoD Diablery and no generations for vampires: puts them on a level playing field with the other characters. And remove one of the most abused parts of the original game.

 

System:  The Ragnarok Engine. My system, with the following modifications:

  • The Destiny Die: On a Bad Match (1s), the player can choose a Sacrifice in order to avoid the Storyteller building up a stock of Bonus Dice – Example: a vampire could lose Blood, A werewolf lose control over their change or go into a rage, Mages might suffer backlash from spellcasting, etc, or a character might surrender control of their character for the scene. By doing so the character prevents the Storyteller from ramping things up later. In this way too, the player is encouraged to play her Hindrances, rather than ignoring them, or the GM having to keep track of them.
  • It might also be possible to earn a Bonus Die by playing your Hindrances, mush as above, but the player decides when it is appropriate, and is rewarded with a Bonus Die for suffering from the effects of her Hindrance.
  • “Weaker” characters, built on fewer points, could hold back build points if they want to undergo a transformation during the course of the Chronicle, or keep them as a pool of Bonus Dice with which they begin each session. SO a character built on 7 points instead of 10, would begin each session with 3 Bonus Dice. This represents Fate aiding a character directly with die rolls, as opposed to the more powerful characters who have to make their own way in the world earning their Bonus Dice, because Fate has already given them these powers.
  • No clan specific powers. Clans or septs or tribes, etc, are made up by individual groups for their Chronicle, according to guidelines provided. There might also be some pre-generated clans and such for the various monstrous "races". Lineage and abilities comes out in the specific weaknesses of that bloodline of Monster – one or more Hindrances that must be taken and cannot be bought off with Experience.

 

Now that I think of it, I actually wrote a story set in very close to this sort of setting. You can read "Their Blood is the Sea" in the 6th volume of D-Infinity Magazine! I will see about getting it posted to D-Infinity in the near future.