July 19th, 2010


Serve in Hell

When I was younger, one of the things I enjoyed exploring in role-playing was power fantasies - the idea of being a leader, of a person who was powerful, in control. The brave warrior. The King.

Now what I seem to be interested in is the story of the underdog. I'm interested in the disenfranchised, the second class citizen, the oppressed, the threatened. The servant. The disciple.

Perhaps part of this has grown out of the development of my game, Shelter in Place, where you play humans being chased by zombies, or zombies hunting for the flesh of humans. Either side you play, it's bleak. Fun, but bleak. Bleak fun - which is a new kind of fun. Let's hope it catches on!  Shelter In Place is a survival fantasy, not a power fantasy. But I find it facinating. How do we react when we are threatened, how do we survive when we are pushed into a corner.

With that in mind, I started a game playing with one of my favorite kind of characters - the ghoul. The ghoul concept I use is swiped from White Wolf games, and the idea is that they are the mortal servant of a vampire, kept alive by vampire blood. The blood makes them stronger than a normal human, and they don't age while they get their regular dose of vampire blood, but it also makes them fall utterly in love with their masters, and they live in complete service to the vampire. I'm currently finishing up the first chapter of Ghoul Game with my players, where they are faced with choices between devotion and freedom, love and free will. It's delightful!

I've had so much fun running this game that I thought I might take a crack at running it as a one-shot LARP. I ran a concept of this as a table-top with my players, and they loved it. So I'm going to adapt the table top to a LARP format. The idea would be that players would take on the character of a ghoul who is in service to a vampire. The vampires would be played by the players in my current game and new players would take on the roles of ghouls.

The setting would be at a diplomatic conference. The vampires would be called there to make certain policy decisions. What policy decisions? About what? Concerning who?

As a ghoul, you don't get to know.

The two things that the ghouls know is that the vampires can't leave the building until they agree on certain points, and as such, they've had to bring their blood supply in with them (that is, the ghouls). The second thing that's important is that though the vampires are scheming against each other, none of them will take any actions whatsoever against each other directly - they leave their ghouls to do all that dirty work for them. So the ghouls must fulfill their masters commands by taking actions against one another - forming alliances, and stealing, cheating, tricking and helping one another to achieve their goals.

The vampire players will be NPC's - there to facilitate gameplay with the player characters - but take no direct action themselves.

And because I like to increase the tension, all of this needs to take place over the course of one night.

I want to run a pilot test of this game on my own - getting the gamers I know well to play with me and try out the concept - and then I think I'd like to take this to a gaming con, and run it as a one shot.

Certainly it wouldn't be for gamers looking to explore power fantasies - but it would be great for someone who wants to explore what it's like to be on the downstairs of the upstairs/downstairs dynamic.

I'm also thinking about working on a "intense track" experience for the LARP. More on that as I figure out what that would be and how I'd make it work.