It’s time again for another edition of Your Dice Will Betray You. This time, our lens focuses on a single vampire named Simon in his nightly struggles against the beast within, the violent world around him, and a bad situation made worse. Deep within the unforgiving shadows of the fictional city of Sacho, Simon finds himself caught in a battle without fully understanding what he is or how he became entrenched in the fight.
Sitting at the table, I decided to run a Vampire: The Masquerade game with my closest friends. There are four of us at the table and four vampires being played in the game. Four vampires bound together for strength in numbers in the dark, harsh city. The characters being played are Christian, Simon, Vade, and Jeric – characters made a long, long time ago before we matured enough to realize that role-playing games were more than just combat and rolling dice.
My own character, Christian, was a thrill-seeking contract killer turned vampire who enjoyed the advantage it gave him. My long-time friend Travis played a large, quiet hitman named only Vade. Andrew played a former government agent, named Jeric, who lost his memory from the trauma of being turned into a vampire. Finally, we come to the subject of our post: Simon, a travelling blues guitarist struggling to retain what little humanity he still has, played by Ken. Of the four characters, Simon was the only character who never wore black or leather and never carried or used a gun – instead opting to carry an axe behind his guitar in it’s case a la a medieval Desperado.
It’s another rainy night in Sacho – a metropolis of cold glass skyscrapers towering over humans struggling to make something of themselves. The quartet of vampires are each moving about within a nightclub named The Jazz. The Jazz is a two story nightclub with a mammoth spiral staircase leading upstairs, large glass floor pieces set in the floor of the second level looking down below, and a small stage for performances and DJs on the first floor. The club is Elysium, neutral ground where vampires can meet without fear of violence.
Vampires within the city have been meeting at The Jazz throughout the month due to a string of aggressive attacks by unknown assailants which have left several of the Elder vampires in the city either dead or concerned for their safety. Neonates – recently embraced (turned) vampires are being recruited (as Pawns) by the Elders within the city to find out who is responsible and hunt them down. On a cold winter night, representatives of the vampire clans have met together at the club and shared what information they have discovered and the consensus is… not much is known of the attackers.
Then, on that night, as promises of power were being made to younger vampires by those acting for the leaders of the vampire clans – all hell broke loose. It started with an explosion, just as the other attacks had and suddenly peace within Elysium no longer existed. From the rear of the club a group of vampire hunters charged in – a brazen attack on unsuspecting vampires. Grenades went off killing armed guards and an explosion near the circuit breaker took out power to the building, eliminating all light sources except for emergency lights and natural light coming in from windows on the second floor.
The humans in the club began screaming and running for safety, guided to the front entrance by the guards. Seeing an opportunity to potentially end the chaos once and for all – Christian, Vade, and Jeric picked up guns, took cover, and began to return fire against the attackers. Gunshots aren’t normally much threat to vampires, but this group of hunters used fire and incendiary weapons to their advantage, levelling the field against their supernatural targets. Simon, in a moment of human-like concern for another’s safety, risked himself to guide humans out of the bar before the fire spread too far. As the last of the guards fell to a hail of gunshots and a grenade, the remaining vampires (and humans) found themselves caught between a fire spreading at the front and heavily armed hunters using incendiary rounds and grenades in the shadows near the back of the club.
Turning back from the entrance and the fire, Simon struggled to maintain control of himself. Rötschreck, a vampire’s innate fear against fire or sunlight, had claimed several of the vampires and caused the instinctive flight-or-fight mentality that had led to their deaths at the hands of the hunters. Too far from his guitar case (and hidden axe) for comfort, Simon’s eyes flickered about for a weapon as the member’s of his coterie called for aid. Among the bodies of the fire-lit club he found a massive handgun one of the guards had carried – an IMI Desert Eagle chambering the monstrous .50 AE cartridge. In a moment of uncharacteristic behavior, Simon chose to fire the weapon, an act he was barely familiar with as he had neither used guns nor felt compelled to until that moment.
And in that moment… the instant he chose to raise the hand-cannon Desert Eagle and aim it at one of the attackers near the stage and pull the trigger – a woman decided to get up from the floor next to him and run past screaming. The moment he pulled the trigger was the same moment the woman ran past him and he ended her life. The loud crack of the gun going off, a flash from the business end, and then the spray of the poor club-goer’s brain matter across the club later and Simon had killed an innocent.
Industrial music is playing at the table as it often did when we played VTM. Andrew, Travis, and Ken are all trying to figure out how they will get out of the club alive during the attack. The attackers, they would later find out, were former government agents and soldiers who had banded together to destroy threats to humanity, after discovering the supernatural world behind the curtain of the Masquerade. At the moment Ken decided that Simon was going to use the gun, it was obvious there was a mental struggle going on. He didn’t want to use the gun because it was out of character, but he also didn’t want to see his character or the others die.
Unfortunately, the moment he chose to use the gun, it was almost as if fate decided to turn against him. The attack roll failed spectacularly, turning into a botch – a disastrous effect while an action is being attempted. In this case, the botch caused Simon to kill a human being inadvertently. Another mechanic then came into play at this point, Humanity. Humanity deals with how much of a character’s human nature remains after becoming a vampire. A high Humanity is something that Ken intended as an important characteristic of Simon. As a result of the botched attack roll he also had to make a Humanity roll to determine if his character felt guilt for the act or if his grip on Humanity slipped deeper down, letting the uncaring beast within come closer to the surface.
Unfortunately for Ken (and Simon) that Humanity roll was also unsuccessful. The result was that although Ken felt bad for the outcome, Simon had a moment where it should have affected him on a deeper level as he clung to his Humanity, but instead, the beast within climbed that much higher.
Have any of you ever had similar misfortune? What’s the worst thing that ever happened to one of your characters in a role-playing game?