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Prep-Advice for Whispering Vault wanted

Started by montag, April 04, 2004, 08:48:58 PM

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montag

as the title indicates, actual play hasn't happened yet, but I wanted to ask for some advice on running Whispering Vault beforehand. It's unlikely that we'll play a longer campaign and so I'd like to ask for some tips to avoid the major stumbling blocks.
Previous, helpful threads I found include One from the Vault, Premise in the Whispering Vault, and Request for play of Whispering Vault.
What happened so far:
I've handed the char-gen section to the players, urging them to focus on creating "worthy protagonists" (from Sorcerer IIRC; hope the phrase means as much to my players as it conveys to me) and told them not to worry about stats, since I'll be handing out extra XP (because (i) there's only two players and (ii) right now I'm pretty sick of the "play to improve/ see the cool parts of the game" threadmill).

What I've planned:
The specific Unbidden, NPCs and the area in history we're going to play in will depend on the characters the players come up with. I liked the idea from the free game "The Ixiptla" where the Stalkers are reintroducing human sacrifice rituals by removing the Unbidden and would like to work something like this into the game. I've also got a couple of R-maps readied and I hope I'll be able to connect both the Unbidden and the Stalkers to the map by making them "catalysts" of the stuff in the R-map.

Questions:
(1)I've considered making everything a bit easier (lowering TNs), both because there's only two players and because I want them to be successful, getting them "high" on their godlike powers etc. Has anyone tried that, is it a good idea and, most importantly, will it reduce the "horror" aspect of the game?
(2) Same question as above goes for dishing out extra XP.
(3) I've considered adding a Stalker NPC to complete the trinity of the Warrior, the Judge and (what was the third one again? Inquisitor?). Good idea or not?
(4) It seems, unless I throw lots of extra XP at them, they'll only be able to decide on locking up the Unbidden. I generally feel that the possible judgements are a bit limited, and that player choice at this point is to much constrained by what the Stalkers _can_ do, thus reducing the meaning of their choice at this point. Any ideas what to do about that? Is my impression correct?
(5) Other ideas, suggestions, links etc?
markus
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"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
--B. F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969)

hardcoremoose

Markus,

You've already read my Actual Play accounts, so you know my feelings about what works and doesn't work.  Here are my answers to you questions:

1) Don't mess with the Target Numbers.  Give the players extra Fate points (or whatever they're called in WV - the points you can spend to re-roll your dice).  This ups their effectiveness while making success at a given action a choice.

2) If you're playing for just a few sessions, give out whatever XP you think is right.

3) I wouldn't add an NPC Stalker to the mix.  If you're doing your job right, you'll have too many NPCs to deal with already, and handling an NPC Stalker just complicates things.  If you want them to have a supernatural ally, use Shadows.

4) One of the fun, and sometimes overlooked, elements of WV is that the players get to pass judgment on the Unbidden.  The default thinking seems to be to lock them up, but there's nothing saying the players couldn't rule on the side of the Unbidden, or fall somewhere in between those extremes.  Make these options known and available to your players.

5) Something I was thinking about in terms of prep is that you could steal a little from Zero At The Bone when creating Unbidden.  Have your players anonymously write down something personal - a shameful secret, an injustice they feel strongly about, or some personal obsession - and have that become the focus of the Unbidden, their reason for barging their way into the mortal realm.  Play it to the hilt, and see if the Unbidden generates any extra sympathy from the players.

- Scott

Ron Edwards

Hiya,

I'm with Scott in preserving the target number rules and also in avoiding NPC Stalkers. I strongly recommending learning the Karma rules well, because the hard-to-hit TNs are all wrapped up with making the Karma valuable moment to moment in play. That's actually much more important to the resolution system than is easily grasped from reading the rules.

I also urge you to think in terms of multiple sessions for a single Hunt, and to develop the NPCs as much as possible in terms of their emotional presence and logistic connections to one another. The Whispering Vault works best when the Stalkers get involved with non-Hunt aspects of the NPCs' lives and start to care about them.

And permit me to thank you, greatly, for checking out those old threads. I'm glad you found them helpful.

Best,
Ron

hardcoremoose

Karma...that's the word I was looking for.

All of what Ron says is right.  I made a serious error when I last played, in trying to link multiple hunts up together.  Fortunately, I corrected it a couple sessions in, and the game improved dramatically.  A single hunt over multiple sessions is the way to go; gives it time to stew and simmer.

- Scott

montag

Scott, Ron, thanks for the advice.

And boy am I glad I asked, for I might have missed the Karma rules (there was something at the back of of my mind which seemed important yet tended to slip – Karma!). And this despite the fact that I love the player-choice over re-rolls concept in Dying Earth and Trollbabe. I shall go flagellate myself after posting this ;)

Scott's suggestions about using a Shadow instead of a Stalker NPC also solves the problem of how to work in a Pain Mother, so that's extremely neat as well. *eg*

The suggestion about stealing a page from ZATB ... honestly, I'm inclined to take a pass on this one. Mostly because I tend to "play it to the hilt" anyway, and I doubt I will be able to take care of the game and hard personal issues/violations of comfort zones at the same time. If I knew the game inside out that probably wouldn't be an issue, but as it stands I might be too distracted to notice the little signals. I'll probably take it to the players, express my reservations and see whether they want to do it and trust me in this.

Another, much simpler idea I had was simply bringing the Stalkers to a time where one of them was alive as a human and having them meet an NPC the knew "before". (I've instructed them to create a few NPC-concepts their Stalker knows, either from his previous life or his Stalker existence. If I can't work them into the hunt, these should at least give me a hint as to what stuff the players are especially interested in, so I can work from there.) Descendants (their own or those of NPCs they knew) might work as well.
Actually, I'd appreciate feedback on this last paragraph, since it seems so simple, yet tie the PCs neatly into the whole "humanity, what's it worth" issue and I wonder why I haven't read about this before (or have I read and forgotten the source?)
markus
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"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
--B. F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969)

Ron Edwards

Hi Markus,

QuoteAnother, much simpler idea I had was simply bringing the Stalkers to a time where one of them was alive as a human and having them meet an NPC the knew "before". (I've instructed them to create a few NPC-concepts their Stalker knows, either from his previous life or his Stalker existence. If I can't work them into the hunt, these should at least give me a hint as to what stuff the players are especially interested in, so I can work from there.) Descendants (their own or those of NPCs they knew) might work as well.

I suggest, instead, waiting to do this until after the group has one good Hunt under their belt. I think the Stalkers shine their best when they utilize their Keys to Humanity relative to people they don't know but come to care about, rather than if there are clues to who they really were. This was one of the finest strengths of Le Mon Mouri, in my view - that the player-characters could construct stories of who they were based on snippets of memory, but the constructions remained utterly opaque in terms of real memory.

Final point: if you haven't acquired and read the supplement Dangerous Prey, I highly recommend it. One of the finest RPG supplements ever written.

Best,
Ron

hardcoremoose

Markus,

The whole Zero At The Bone suggestion is real touchy, so if you have reservations, probably best to go with your gut.  I thought of it a few weeks back while messing around with a superhero game, and I wondered then if the players would have more empathy with the villains if they (the players) had something in common with them, even if it was twisted a bit.  But it's a totally untested technique, so I can see why you'd be leery of it.

In my last WV game - the one whose threads you located earlier - I did all of the things with mortal NPCs that you are suggesting.  One mortal was a cancer-ridden man acquainted with one of the Stalkers, kept alive through the mysterious powers of the Unbidden, allowing him to show up in places and times he should never have been able to.  Other characters were the descendants of mortals from earlier times, who knew little about the PCs, but had connections to them anyway.  It worked fine, and was fun.

(Edited to note that I cross-posted, and am slightly at odds, with Ron.  His sounds real cool too though).

- Scott