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Here is the Team Concept: All characters are currently mortal but they'll be transitioning soon, so I've noted what they want to change into. How do I get them to work together?

My original approach was that they know each other, and be cool ahead of time, but that's failed, maybe because I wasn't clear about the level of "cool". The fact is they're doing a decent job of role playing their characters, but they have no reason to work together, because their jobs would actually dictate that they don't.

  • Police Detective -> Werewolf
  • CSI -> Vampire
  • College Student -> Changeling
  • Surgeon (former military) -> Hunter (Null Mysteries)
  • Black Market Surgeon / Antisocial Sociopath (Dexter) -> Mage

The story thus far with inside info. A child was taken by a Fae from a park/playground, Student witnessed, Police investigated, set up crime scene, blah blah. Next Day Kid shows back up at the playground (his fetch). Later that same day the original kid shows up aged about 60 years, and murders his fetch and is generally acting like a madman.

The characters don't know anything about Fae or fetches. The plan is for the Keeper to follow and have that result in a showdown triggering most of the changes, the student will then be taken by the keeper, for my purposes it's going to trigger the first change for the wolf (yeah I know that's not exactly cannon, I'm chalking it up to stress levels can do weird hormonal things), all this madness is going to cause the Hunter to start his supernatural research.

My problem restated, do I get these characters to start working together, should I just drop them in the same place and let my keeper scene play out?

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Even after you've got them together, keeping them together is going to be horrid. You have a real mess on your hands even without dragging in the rest of the WoD. Hope you don't feel offended, but have you much GMing experience? –  Dave Jul 9 at 15:53
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Tell them straight up: You aren't gonna run 5 campaigns. If it needs some meta-game reasoning, so be it. Give the Characters a reason, the best you can, if the Players don't take it it's their loss. –  Dave Jul 9 at 16:57
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5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are a couple of the classic "Campaign Archetypes" (a topic for an essay?) that I think may work. First is:

The Deadly Peril

Something is out to get the PCs, something bigger than them. You need to make it very, very clear that they cannot survive without working together. Problem is, when one of them inevietably goes off on their own. To keep the party together you need to slap them down, and hard. This is a very delicate task and can go horridly wrong.

next:

The Patron

Give them an aim, something they can all agree on, and have someone with the power to make them work together. Someone they don't want to cross, but want to ally with. Given your party this could be grating, but with some of their connections a conspiracy within the law enforcement community could work.

Or,

Try Something Different.

Give them something to tie them together. Normally this would be a lot less drastic than this party will require, but hear me out. It's gonna sound nuts...

Focus on a single character at a time. For one, maybe two sessions. In each arc one player takes on a sort-of-mentor figure, the rest take on various NPCs, perhaps multiple in a session (simple summaries are enough). Play through their awakening.

The Trick is thus: The mentor figures are the same person, under different names, wearing different clothes. Don't mention this to the players.

The Twist: The mentor goes missing. They all have ways to contact them, and they find leads to the other players. In this arc jump around between characters a bit. If one goes to the a diner, have the others pass it on the way, play up the near misses. Finally, have them meet, having found, through their own investigations a solid lead who is not going to be mistaken for one of the PCs.

Now, you have a mystery they are personally involved in, and know that the others have a similar connection to it. If the players are willing to make the characters work, it should be enough.

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I think you should ask your players what kind of game they want.

Do they want to kill other player characters?

In the game world, werewolves hate vampires. Vampires hate werewolves, and eat humans. Hunters hunt vampires and werewolves. Not sure about changelings, but basically you're setting up a big bloodbath.

If this is what the players want, then be sure they know it and are OK with it, and will draw up new characters when theirs gets killed. I suggest that you rule that an ally of the killer shows up as the replacement character, so if the werewolf kills the vampire, the vampire player must make a new werewolf character.

This way, your group becomes more and more stable.

Do they all want to play the characters they created and not die immediately?

Make them choose relationships that tie them together. Look at Fiasco play sets to get an idea of what that is like. Examples include:

  • Family
    • Brother and sister
    • Identical twins
    • Step-siblings
    • Cousins
    • Uncle / nephew
    • Father / daughter
  • In a relationship
    • Best friends since childhood
    • Lovers
    • Married
    • Unrequited love
  • A shared experience
    • Both experienced something impossible, and can only talk to each-other about it
    • One saved the others life
    • Went to boot camp together
    • Did police training together
    • Worked together to catch a serial killer
  • A shared interest (one that has a shared subculture)
    • Both are members of the local UFO spotters club
    • Both are in the local LARP scene
    • Both are members of the same biker gang
  • A shared goal
    • Both want to get even with the same person
    • Both have a lifelong dream to hunt zombies
    • Both want to be safe from the same menace

Make as many relationships between the player characters as possible. Basically, if any player asks any other character in the group to do something for them, the entire group should have reasons for going along.

Shared safety is powerful. Consider making it the group versus the world.

Normal humans will likely try to kill vampires and werewolves, even if they are not evil. A group of werewolves or a group of vampires will try to break up the vampire / werewolf lovers. There are cults that need to kill the Chosen One (hunter) for a blood ritual.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer has lots of supernatural allies. Try to pull ideas from the show. The big menace there is usually vampires, but there are (very rare) good vampires-with-souls, or demons-who-are-good-people.

But we already started playing!

Maybe your players didn't quite understand what you meant when you said for them to be cool with one another when they made their characters. Talk to them about it now, and make it specific. See if they are open to the idea, or if they want to play the random game instead.

Discuss with the players what relationships they are OK with. Then go about having them discover the relationships.

Examples:

  • Have the Detective and the Dexter both roll perception. If they make it, let them recognize the other as a sibling separated in childhood.
  • The moment the vampire and the hunter touch, they realize that they were lovers in a previous life.
  • The changeling reads her horoscope that morning, and it tells her that she will find her destiny with a tall hirsute gentleman that day in the park. Have it mention her by name, and when she looks again, have her name be gone.

You control fate, and you can weave the strands that bring players together. Ever try to walking away in a mystical forest and find yourself ending up where you started?

Ever win a holiday ticket for Europe, and discover that your neighbor also won a ticket for the same holiday in a different contest?

It helps if there is a powerful god or goddess that wants to bring these characters together for a reason. Maybe because he likes messing with them because he's a trickster.

If all else fails, try asking the players if they will accept a retcon. If they really want their characters to stick together, and it's only been a session or two, then they might be OK with saying the relationships have always been there.

As a very, very last resort, try promising them extra relationship XP for establishing the relationships in play.

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If you want to, talking directly to your players is a good idea in this scenario. Like:

Listen, if I were a grand GM I probably would find a way to form this group even though you don't seem like you want to. But, I'm not yet, so you can continue getting plotted around each other until I get bored or take the bait and follow the plot.

If you don't want to, you could go down one of these plots:

Force

The group is being taking hostage / abducted whatever and being forced to work together to get out. This works especially well if they have something in common that they didn't know yet about (decedents of a group of mighty whatevers and are being punished for actions done by their unknown ancestors). After they return your original plot unfolds (so its more than a day the kid goes missing or something).

Mutual Love/Friendship

Their spouses/colleagues are already friends and invite them to a dinner party together. They meet and because of (Hand waving) all but one of the NPCs is out of the room. Then the left NPC turns out to be a werewolf and talks straight to them, not noticing that they don't yet know that they are special. As they have to shut up as soon as the other NPCs return they will have a pressing feeling of talking to each other ASAP.

Mutual Enemy

Someone pisses each of them off (and maybe a group of other people as well, but that doesn't need to be) and they team together to finish him, turns out he is Mr. Important Guy from your plot. But make it personal or it won't work.

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I have played a similar game to this, I played an awakened zombie, we had a werewolf, a highlander, a vampire and a magi.

Why did we stick together? Because we didn't know who else to turn to and everyone was against us.

The organisational parts of WoD were, however, very downplayed. The society of each of the "species" of supernaturals was kept at a distance (never even found out about princes or anything like that) what we did meet was bits and pieces of the supernatural world here and there but never anything particularly organised.

Why did this work?

  • We had a patron, a mysterious figure that had gathered us together to solve "problems" for him and was the only one telling us anything about our condition. This patron was part of some quasi-government agency that used supernaturals to solve problems that noone else could help with, A-Team style. Although our group was more like the Useless-Team.
  • Old ties were severed; we'd been relocated, our families thought we were dead and reacted with horror and, some of us realised, were being watched by mysterious agents that would use them and harm them if they found out we were still active.
  • Politics was kept at a long distance, the large supernatural power structures of WoD were kept very distant and vague, we had to rely on the others in the group for support because we knew the police and old friends wouldn't really help us.
  • We knew nothing. The lore and mysteries of the supernatural had been subtly modified by the ST such that we weren't sure what bit of lore to trust, which kept us guessing and confused.
  • Encounters with other supernaturals went badly, they reacted badly to us when we met any of them and invariably we fell back on each other.
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I really feel this point needs to be made, if people disagree I will take the down-votes. I feel is answer is necessary because many future readers might get the (incorrect) impression that mixing templates in WoD is a great idea. It isn't. It is cool in other systems (DFRPG, for example) but it isn't here, and this is why and here is my recommendations. I am focussing more on mixing supernatural templates, which to be fair is just a symptom of the un-unified party concept.

In short, don't. I know that isn't what you want to hear. But let me have my reasoning. You say "Implicitly I think the mix doesn't /have/ to negatively impact things, just means a different type of game."

I disagree, without very experienced GM and players, it will negatively impact the game. Even with them it will be as you say a "different type of game", it will not be a the kind of experience one expects from the world of darkness. The fact that you are having an issue with keeping the characters together, indicates you/your players don't have that experience. That is Ok, there is nothing wrong with that.

This cross over that is not designed for, is going to significantly aggravate the issue of having a party that doesn't have a strong reason to be together.

My experience

I am playing in such a game. I would not chose to every GM such a game. This game has taken extreme organisation. It had pilot games run before hand to test the waters to see how things would go. The GM and all of the players each had over 3 years of experience with nWoD. All the players bar 1 was an experienced GM, who had GMed several nWoD campaigns. Vast amount of story prep went in before things started, weeks I think. And even now after over 18 months of weekly games, hours are spent some weeks cross referencing rules for their interactions.

The GM needs to know the rules and fluff for all the templates, at once. That is keeping a lot of information in short term memory.

For reference, how we ended up working together was we were all metaphorically sold to an archmage. Someone us mistakenly sold ourselves by entering his employment, others were sold out by our own supernatural organisations. He used imperial magic to bind us to a Gies forcing us to work together to solve his problems. By the time we were individually strong enough to break the gies, we had now long relationships with each other.

I have also run a game entirely around the premise that once player was a vampire with abilities to imitate a werewolf, and the rest of the party was werewolves. This worked ok, because it was clear we were playing a game of werewolf. No one except me and the vampire player knew he was a vampire. The campaign ended when he admitted to the party (In Character and Out) that he was a vampire -- after getting a oath from them that they would all help deal with each other's problems. This was what the story was about; even though no-one knew what was going on til the end, once the realised this it all lined up. In this game it would not have been fun to continue for more sessions after that.

The Issues

Being able to mix PC supernaturals was not a design goal of nWoD. The fact that is it possible is a side effect of of the design goal of allowing NPCs from different templates to show up.

In oWoD this was not technically possible, but could be done with some minor house-ruling. Each supernatural book was stand alone, and was a slightly different system for each with subtle differences, from what I have heard. (I should actually ask that as a question, I am just going on second or third hand information with anything to do with oWoD)

The interactions have some issues, both with fluff and from a balance point of view.

Factions

They also all bring in there own dozens or even hundreds of NPC strong organisations that for some are a major point of playing them. In particular Vampire is all about this, it is game of politics. Changeling can be very similar. Hunter to a lesser extent within a conspiracy/compact they are fairly united, but again it can be a thing in hunter, either internally with factions or externally.

Managing a bunch of these factions is not going to be great as a GM. It will be a lot of work

Hunter

As a Compact Hunter the Null Mysterium will have less NPC faction baggage than a hunter with a conspiracy. However he will have no mystical ability, no "Magic" endowments. So while the vampire is dominating peoples minds, and the changeling and werewolf are off in there own private dimensions, he is going to be taking notes. This isn't super fun for a player. Without a cell of hunters he can't use any cool hunter tactics either.

Hunter is also meant to get practical XP. Assessing practical XP needs to be done every single scene that contains a supernatural. That is going to be all of them. The hunter should be getting significantly more XP than the other characters (maybe 1.5x as much). This will help deal with his low power of not having sweet abilities, though won't really help him have more variety. It may also make the other players (out of character) uncomfortable, and feeling like they are missing out.

The Hunter lacks a Power stat (this is why hunter is a Minor template), he is human. As such he does not get to add power stat to resist super-natural effects. This is not too noticeable when the rest of the party is at power stat 1. But when they are at 3, then he is having to spend a willpower point to do what they can just do. In a normal Hunter Game, the hunter could use the Moral Support Tactic (Page 226), to boost their effective resistance, but that only works if you have a party of Hunters (as I have been saying, hunters are not meant to work alone).

Further, he is human for purposes of effects that affect humans. In particular lunacy: page 176 of Werewolf, and page 319 of Hunter. In any scene that the werewolf transforms the Hunter is going to suffer debilitating penalties, may be unable to remember the scene, and may even be forced to flee. (Depending on Willpower (ie Resolve+Composure total). The Hunter does not even get a Roll to save against this. Normally this would be an aspect of horror in the occasional werewolf scene in hunter. but with a werewolf in the party, this is going to be a very large portion of the scenes.

Secondly from the hunter being Human, he counts as a sleeper for purposes of the mage dealing with paradox, and disbelief. This will to an extent nerf the mage, but will mostly just make things more chaotic, with the mages spells misfiring (Havok), and random other paradox effects.

I recommend house ruling this out of the game. The fact that you have to, indicates the designers never intended these two characters to be part of a team.

Werewolf:

It is a Harmony 6 Sin to not be around other werewolves (Page 183). Though they can survive some weeks, depending on there Primal Urge.

It is a Harmony 4 Sin to reveal the existence of werewolves to a human (Page 183). It is debatable as to if a changeling counts as a ordinary human. But a Hunter definitely does.

Vampire

Vampires can't act during the day. This is a big issue. Even leaving aside Depending on the time of the year and location, a Vampires can only act for ~8-16 hours, while the sun is down. This is a average of 12 hours. vs all other characters who can act for 16 hours per day, and if they want can go without sleep for 48 hours. Vampires just can't.

I worked around this in my vampire hiding amongst werewolves game by having the pack's Totem's ban be going outside during the day. The totem spirit was aligned distantly, to a spirit involved in the creation of vampires, and was in on it (there was alot more fluff that had the players accepting it without blinking).

Mage

Mage does not have a power curve similar to the others. When a mage increases his Arcana, he doesn't get one more spell -- like the changeling does when he ups a contract, he gains a theoretically infinite number of spells. Uping an Arcan Mage allows improviseings new spells -- including even if he is not creative, Indeed almost all spells in mage will be improvised, since learning rotes is really hard without other mage NPCs, and also is broadly speaking not worth it.

The mage will not have the most powerful abilities -- generally mage abilities arrive at one dot higher than the equivalent ability in any other supernatural. Though there are exceptions, for example 1 dot of the Spirit Arcana gives almost every ability in the Promethean Spiritus set of Transmutations.

However he will be the most versatile. Especially as he levels up. With 1 dot in a arcana, that give him sight abilities, he will be able to work out what is going on better. With 2 dots in a arcana he has some control abilities that will let him solve problems -- 2 dots in any randomly chosen 4 arcana can solve most problems. When he hits 4 dots in a arcana, depending on the arcana he will be able to solve problems in special ways. Such are turning all the air in a room in to chlorine to nerve gas everyone, or using Prime to create any simple object.

His versatility will really start to show up the hunter's lack, especially as the hunter isn't getting any special powers being that he is tier 2.

Mage is also the most complicated system. It is good that it is explicit about so many things, but it does mean that you will be spending alot more time checking up on rules for the mage player than for anyone else.

Evidence that Mixed PCs was not a design Goal.

As I said above, I believe nWoD was designed to allow NPCs to cross over between. PCs can, merely as a side effect. I am yet to find word of god, saying one way or the other, so this evidence is circumstantial.

Crossover abilities are not found in core books

A few rules do exist for facilitating cross over, but not many. Most of those I would argue are much more suited to either single character insertion (Eg one vampire hiding in a pack of werewolves), or for NPC stalking (Party infiltrating a faction of another supernatural).

All these special abilities that facilitate cross-over, are in Splat books for the templates, such as:

  • Lord Sage of Unknown Reaches for changeling (Lords of Summer).
  • Refinement of Silver for Promethean (Magnum Opus).
  • Dead Wolves Bloodline for Vampire(Shadows of Mexico)

I am sure Hunter has rules for "working with the enemy" but I don't know where. Point is none of this stuff is in core for any line. If it was a design goal of the game for cross over to be a thing they would be in core books.

Different XP for established characters

Vampire has:

  • Rank neonates 0 experience points
  • Up-and-comers 35 experience points
  • Established Kindred 75 experience points
  • Movers and shakers 120 experience points
  • Elders and other linchpins of undead society 180-300+ experience points

Changeling, Werewolf and Mage have:

  • Fresh 0 experience points
  • Established 35 experience points
  • Veteran 75 experience points
  • Lords 120+ experience points

Roughly one step earlier than vamp. Meaning that vampires continue to develop for longer, and take more XP to become established. Still not a huge thing, mostly says that vampires of significantly higher XP than other high XP supernatural are more common (a shiften distribution).

Hunters on the other hand are completely different:

  • New Recruits 0 experience points & 0 Practical Experience
  • Survived First Contact 25 experience points & 12 Practical Experience
  • Seasoned Soldiers 60 experience points & 30 Practical Experience
  • Grizzled Veterans 100+ experience points & 50 Practical Experience

A reading of that indicates that Hunters have a very different development curve to the others; and that this is by design. Thus the designers did not intent to mix hunter with the others as they level at different rates.

While it is unquestionably possible to mix and match templates, it was never the intent.

My suggestion is:

Run with your story, with these characters. It sounds like a fun enough seed. If you don't have much more the other answers provide good suggestions.

Get one session out of it, or even 3 if things are still going. It won't go well forever. As you correctly say these characters have no reason to be together. Once they all split up, end this Story.

Now you have some more experience with the various different supernaturals, and can as a group decide which supernatural you want to play. And while you are creating new characters of that type, you can ensure all the party members have a reason to be together as a group.

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