I'm preparing a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle and I'm currently figuring out how to kick it off. There are two techniques touched on in the rulebook that I think are important, and want to apply both of them:
Group character creation
Don't just let players create their character on their own. The coterie needs synergy. I want to make sure everybody brings something unique to the table and avoid redundant characters such as e.g. two manipulative, plotting Ventrues with exactly the same disciplines and goals. At the same time, too antagonistic clans in the same group can be a problem as well. I also don't want PC’s to be overspecialized, only useful 20% of the time which would bore the player to death during the remaining 80% of sessions.
In the end, players are at the center of the chronicle, they should choose what they want in terms of atmosphere, mood, whether they prefer investigation-oriented, combat-oriented, politics-oriented sessions, even possibly whether the group is going to be Camarilla, Sabbat or something else. They might as well discuss it collectively with the storyteller.
For each PC, roleplay a short one-on-one sequence where the character is still a mortal, at the end of which they are embraced. I think it makes for a very good introduction to the World of Darkness for newer players, teaching them the ropes of the game system, as well as an intro to the setting of my campaign for more experienced ones. The chronicle will start with a violent and sudden event that will leave its mark on the PCs and I want to play this out extensively with each one of them – a bit à la Initiation in Dogs in the Vineyard.
This is all well and fine, except that technically speaking, these two methods conflict and pose a dilemma:
If we do creation first, players will already be introduced to the world, the Masquerade, their clan, their disciplines and have a full-fledged Vampire character sheet before they get to the Prelude part. Not only will the Prelude lose in interest (playing as simple mortals while they have brushed against the promise of strong vampiric powers can feel dull and frustrating) but PC’s can’t play with the character sheet they just created.
If we do Prelude/Embrace first, how to know what clan their Sire is? I want opinionated preludes that match the player’s clan theme. For instance, the PC (still a human) has boarded up her house and defends it fiercely, shotgun in hand, against attackers or looters. A Brujah passing by admires her grit and decides (for that reason and others) to embrace her. If the PC’s clan and concept haven’t been priorly defined, there’s no way you can play this kind of introduction. And clan choice depends on group discussion between the players, so we're back to square one.
How can I use both of these together? I can think of a couple of options, each with its flaws :
- Play the background part of character creation — defining character backstories, clans and natures — but only give them enough points to build a mortal character sheet.
- Then play the Preludes with these weaker stats.
- Finally get back to completing the vampire sheets after the embraces.
Problem with this option: players may distribute their human points in a different, less optimized way than they would have had they known about discipline and vampire-related rolls. It’s also difficult to draw the line between (1) and (3). I don’t want to reveal too much in (1) yet the players need a clear vision of the vampiric clans and society to build a harmonious group.
Do character creation first, but create two character sheets for each PC, one mortal and one Kindred.
Problems: This solves the character sheet issue but still has the same premature secrets spoil and vampiric frustration problems.
How can I have our Preludes and Group Cohesion too?