Interview with a (half) Vampire (IC summary of Dresden Files game)

Disclaimer: This is an in-character write-up/summary of a short Dresden Files RPG that I played in recently and is entirely fictional.
“You look disappointed that I look like a normal guy, what were you expecting? Brad Pitt or something? Sorry but the real world don’t play that way, tell you what, you want I should make my tattoos glow red, no? Well perhaps it’s not such a good idea anyway, they’re not there to be pretty.
Okay, so, where to start.
Is this thing on?
Right, well my name is Luciano Santiago; you’ve heard saying ‘unlucky in love, lucky at cards’? Well I was never very good with either, so my family saddled me with the nickname Lucky, funny thing is, i’m here now and they’re not – so whose the lucky one at the end of things eh?

The Santiago family used to run the criminal world in this city, wasn’t a shady deal or underhand enterprise went down without them knowing about it and taking their cut; it was a good time, things got done professionally, not saying that we were nice people, far from it, but we took pride in our work and kept the collateral damage to a minimum – no real sentiment involved, it just wasn’t efficient. Well that all changed when some chump named Straiker grabbed me and my brother Giani when we were heading back from a job, I don’t even remember how he got us to get in the car, but (even knowing nothing about the supernatural as I did) i’d seen enough movies to know what he was when fangs slid out of his mouth and he started snacking on my brother.

You ever know what it’s like to try and move and not be able to? Well yeah it sucks balls, but I couldn’t move a muscle, and I was straining so hard I was worried I was gonna pop something; but Straiker lets my brother go and puts the bite down on me, I started to feel myself drift away when from nowhere there was a loud crunch as another car hit us.
Lucky at cards right?
Straiker took a hit to the back of the head and I found that I could move again, so I scrambled out of the car, I thought that my brother must’ve been dead, it was only later when I tried to go back that I found out he was walking about; only he wasn’t my brother any more, he was like Straiker some bat-faced blood sucker. Once Straiker got a taste of the criminal world, he decided he wanted to take a big bite out of it and began munching his way through my family.
All the while I could feel this churning hunger burning me up inside, I had to get away, the family would be looking for me either to kill me or to put the bite on me (I wasn’t sure which one was worse); it was then I saw a young kid running out infront of a car, it wasn’t going to stop. Before I knew what I was doing I felt a surge of strength flow through me and ran across the road faster than the car was moving, grabbing the child and putting her safely down on the other side; I was about to speak to her when suddenly the hunger pain returned, twisting like a knife in my gut, so bad that I collapsed at the side of road, groaning in pain.
The next thing I knew was that some guy (I later found out he was a senior detective) was picking me up, he’d seen me save the kid and introduced me to this weird group called the Order of St. Giles, after setting me a few trials they gave me these tattoos; yes I know, you can’t normally see them, but when I get the hunger on me they start glowing, both to warn people and to help hold the hunger back.
So how does this relate to the supernatural war and the re-dressing of the balance?
Well I ended up hooking up with this american-indian woman called Wayaya who was pretty clued in to the world of the supernatural, had some kind of fierce sorcerous mojo going on that I wouldn’t want to mess with, not least of which was that she seriously messed up any technology that she got near (well anything post-1950s); my other ally around this time was a Detective Howell, a young woman who (despite my best efforts) got dragged into the whole messy affair when she broke up a drug deal I was doing. Trying to hide from my family, i’d been forced to use outside help, they got sloppy and the police were tipped off – i’d written the whole thing off and was about to make myself scarce when one of the police officers fell of the boat they were on and hit his head. I’ve seen a lot of people die in my time but no-one deserves to go out like that so I dived in and rescued him, Detective Howell was his superior and was on the boat, turns out she had been with the old man who’d taken me to the Order but she didn’t know jack all about the supernatural.
See the Santiago family were going to war with another criminal family over who owned the docking and shipping business, this would have all been fairly normal but this time they were getting sloppy, their street battles were spilling out and started to involve the public; I don’t know if this was because the vampires were involved in it or not, but they certainly weren’t making things any better. At about the same time we received a message from some kind of world spirit (Wayaya called it ‘Gaia’) during some trippy ceremony at an indian lodge where we were told that the balance was being tipped over and that unless it was restored the world would fall into darkness. Well, fuck that noise, so I sent a message to the family the only way I could, some would call writing on a severed arm in marker pen brutal but, when there’s a lotta noise going on, sometimes you gotta shout to make yourself heard.
I knew they’d be coming for me and I didn’t want to drag Wayaya and Howell into it so I headed for the one piece of neutral ground in the city, the one place where no supernatural would risk messing with me; the Crimson Moon looked like a normal club but it was run by some big power, called himself Van, who enforced the peace. Well Wayaya rocked up, she’d been doing some research on this symbol i’d discovered in my room at the club, turned out it was the resting place of some ancient spirit warrior or some such (I don’t claim to understand that stuff, leave it for the wizards, I got enough shit on my plate as it is) called Kele or “the Fallen Man.” Well after some talking with Van we were able to get him to take us to a hidden chamber under the club where there was this stone coffin thing; apparently only native-american indians could enter the secret area, even Van hadn’t been able to get in, but since we had Wayaya with us we were sound apparently.
Well our indian friend had been hitting the books and had worked out that to awaken the Fallen Man we had to do all many of crazy stuff (don’t even ask me about how we got a dragon to breathe fire on the stone) and Kele rose from his rest; unfortunately that kinda power sent alarm bells out the White Council (some society of occult big-wigs who like to think themselves judge, jury and executioner for the the supernatural world) and they launched a full assault on the Crimson Moon. It was pandemonium out there, people fighting and guns firing, the Fallen Man offered to evacuate us using the spirit world, but I couldn’t take the risk there might be innocent people getting caught up in this war so I went upstairs to help evacuate the normal people before plunging back into the mass brawl that now occupied the dancefloor; next thing I know a huge tear opened up in mid-air and i was pulled through into the spirit world.
We gathered up some local materials (rocks, clay and the like) and Kele made them into paint which he used to draw some animals on us, he then asked if we would sacrifice some of our time in order to help re-dress the balance; we said that of course we would and he left us. The first to disappear was Wayaya, just fading from view and then Howell, leaving just me sat in the spirit world holding Wayaya’s peace-pipe; there was a flash and I was back sitting in the club, pipe in hand with Van looking at me strangely, I rang Wayaya, apparently I had been gone for three months, Wayaya had appeared a few days after we had gone into the spirit world and Howell had appeared a month ago. Kele had used our time to manifest himself in the real world and selectively target and remove certain supernatural elements from the city, redressing the balance.
And that was that, you presumably know what happened next or you wouldn’t be here talking to me?

Now I suggest you get out, i’m sure you’ve noticed the dull glow emanating from my tattoos, that means i’m getting hungry and, whilst I might not like seeing innocents suffer, I aint no saint.”

Have I been getting it all wrong? (Supernaturals in the Fate system)

A lot has been made of the fact that Fate is great when you first visualise an end result and then set about creating something using the rules to match your initial vision, rather than jumping straight into the rules and attempting to build something from the ground up, and rightly so, one of the strengths of the system is that the rules set is extremely versatile even without the various hacks and add-ons that are available either for free or online at a low cost.
Previously when i’ve thought about supernaturals (and in this case i’m talking specifically about supernaturals as player characters rather than as monsters or NPCs which is an entirely different subject) i’ve most often looked at an existing game (in my case generally the World of Darkness series since they’re some of the games i’m most familiar with) and how Fate could be adapted or “hacked” to create a facsimile of the game in question; however there have recently been a spate of posts on the various Fate G+ communities where people have attempting to create versions of their favourite comic/fiction characters (and others) using the basic Fate rules. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how close a lot of these attempts have come to matching their inspiration, and all mostly using the rules as presented in either the Fate Accelerated or Fate Core rulebooks. I ran a one-off game of ‘Mummy: the Curse’ recently since i’ve been dying to test it out and love the concept behind it (my review of Mummy can be found here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrPzZ9ClGyc), now i’ve been away from the World of Darkness rules-set for quite some time, aside from a brief read-through of the updated rules booklet that formed part of the ‘God Machine Chronicles’, since i’ve been moving towards less crunchy and more narrative based systems; whilst the game was very enjoyable and we all had a good time (the background of the game being one of the best i’ve read in a WoD game for a long time) I found going back to the nWoD rules extremely strange and wasn’t completely sold on them.
This isn’t a post to knock crunchier games, because I think that different systems suit different people and it really bugs me when people damn a system just because it happens to not be ideal for them, simply to say that my thoughts upon running the game were (as they so often are when games have a great background but a rules system that doesn’t suit my style of gaming) “there’s some great stuff in this book but I don’t suit the rules, what system can I use to keep the background but make it more suitable for my style of play?” I’m sure it will be no surprise to any who knows me or reads my posts/watches my videos that Fate Core and Fate Accelerated are my go-to systems when this sort of question comes up; previously I would probably have dived straight into the system and started working out how I could hack it to make a workable version of the ‘Mummy: the Curse’ rules, and i’ve done this previously to produce some workable hacks (my WH40K hack and my (still not completed) Fate of Cthulhu hack amongst them). Recently though i’ve been playing in a Dresden Files game run by a friend of mine and, although we’ve only played a single actual session (the first being taken up by setting/character generation and discussion), one of the things that has really impressed me is how a list of Stunts and Aspect suggestions can be used to construct virtually any type of supernatural within the DFRPG universe, this, together with the recent G+ posts has got me thinking that perhaps i’m taking the wrong approach when it comes to playable supernaturals in Fate.
For example, here is an example of a vampire “package” that I threw together in about 30 seconds (using Fate Accelerated rules and some ideas from the Fate Toolkit):
Aspect: Must have one aspect that included the word vampire
Stunts:
– (must have, +1 refresh) Blood-addicted: Gives the character an additional hunger stress track of 3 boxes; at the end of any scene where the vampire has used its power it is ‘attacked’ with a strength equal to the refresh cost of the power used, stress inflicted by this is added first to the hunger stress track.
– (optional, -2 refresh) Vampiric strength: The character gets +4 when Forcefully attacking.
– (optional, -2 refresh) Vampiric speed: The character gets +2 when Quickly overcoming obstacles that involve movement, the character automatically goes first in combats unless there are other combatants with vampiric speed.
The blood-addicted Stunt is based heavily on the DFRPG games use of a hunger stress track to track vampiric hunger, and the combined package would costs 3 refresh to purchase (the standard starting amount for a Fate Accelerated character); obviously there is a lot more work that could be done and i’ve not really covered feeding or standard vampiric weaknessed (sunlight, etc) at all in the rules above, but still it’s a workable framework that could be played, created in relatively little time without a vast amount of rules hacking being required.
Looking at the Fate system in this light it has lead me to wonder whether or not, for my next game featuring supernatural protagonists, it might be an idea to present either a list of Stunts (or some amended Stunt rubrics) to my players and have them create the supernatural characters that they want rather than worrying overly much about whether the rules particularly mirror those present in some other existing game?
For example:
One of the main themes of the game “Mummy: the Curse” is that the Arisen start off very powerful but with little memory or context within which to use that power, as time progresses their magical energy (Sekhem) drains away (bringing them ever closer to a return to their death-like sleep) their memory improves, paradoxically, as they gain the memories that might allow them to use their powers more wisely, those very powers ebb away.
I might create such a creature in Fate Accelerated like this.
Aspects: 
– High Concept: Must have mention the word ‘arisen’
– Trouble: Must mention the word ‘memory’
– Must have one Aspect that mentions the purpose for which they have arisen.
I’m not sure at the moment how i’d handle something like the gradual decrease of power, but i’m pretty sure that, given enough though, the Fate system could handle it; if anyone out there has any suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments section.
Near the start of the year I ran a God Machine Chronicle using the Fate Accelerated rules and that seemed to work really well, although the player characters were only mortals in that game, the GMC game was a tester for when the “Demon: the Descent” game is released (probably in 2014); I think that when this is released, rather than attempt to mirror the rules i’m going to create some demonic powers/Stunts that are thematically similar to the ones listed in the book and then just lift the background from it. I’m also really looking forward to the Dresden Accelerated that is going to released in 2014 (further details here – http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-dresden-files-accelerated/), but until that comes out there’s a lot of potential ideas for supernatural powers as Stunts in the existing DFRPG that can be tapped and the Fate Toolkit offers a lot of advice on making different types of Stunts.

Self-Compels in Fate

After finishing running the third session of our swords & sorcery Fate Accelerated campaign Serpents Fall last night using Google+ hangouts (video link here) I was having a little feedback chat with the players, which is something I like to do (if possible) at the end of every session (and I encourage my players to message me if they think of additional feedback or constructive criticism) since I believe that only by soliciting feedback from your players and others can your game grow and be fine-tuned into the optimum gaming experience for both GM and players. It occurred to me during this chat that there was one aspect of Fate Accelerated that the players hadn’t used a great deal during our three sessions thus far, and that was the use of Self-compels.

What are Self-compels?

For those who are not aware the following is what Fate Accelerated has to say about Compels:
If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, anyone can compel the aspect. You can even compel it on yourself—that’s called a self-compel.
Basically, if one of your Aspects affects your characters decision making/results in an event occurring that make your character’s life more complicated then the person who has suggested the complication (the Compel) offers you a fate point for accepting the additional RP arising from the complications.
If a players makes a suggestion for a complication arising from their own Aspects and the GM agrees then, although not explicitly stated in the Fate Accelerated rulebook, I have always assumed that the GM would be the one to award them with a fate point (since giving yourself a fate point out of your own pool makes no sense); this is something I have been using a great deal already in the first session of a Dresden Files RPG game run by a friend of mine (using a pre-cursor to the Fate Core system).
For example: In the DFRPG session I play a person who has been infected by a red-court vampire but has not killed by blood drinking yet and so he has not fully turned, he has the ability to call on some vampiric powers at the risk of his hunger overwhelming him. My character “Lucky” is an ex-gangster on the run from his family (most of which have now been converted into vampires), he began the game standing on the docks waiting for a boat laden with drugs to come in.
Since one of the other players was playing a law enforcement officer I compelled one of my own Aspects to say that, because i’d been keeping my head down, there’s things out there my character had been forced not to use the normal channels to recruit his hirelings and had ended up with sub-par criminals, one of whom had (unknowingly) tipped off the police and they were about to turn up and bust the operation. This gained me a fate point and bought me into proximity of another player character; Lucky was able to hide himself in the shadows as the police detained and bought in the boat, at this point I made another Self-compel to say that because my character would not stand to see innocent’s suffer that perhaps as the police boat bumped into the dock one of the policemen would fall overboard and bang his head.
The GM accepted this Self-compel and my character was forced to reveal himself, diving into the water to save the unconscious policeman (after all the guy was just doing his job). This small scene got me two fate points and was made far more personal (IMO) due to my use of Self-compels.
However, I have noticed (and mentioned to my players in our feedback session) that Self-compels aren’t particularly used a lot in our Serpents Fall game; now this may be because it is only our third session and some of the players are still very much getting used to the rules, but Self-compels are one of the great things about Fate Core and Fate Accelerated as far as I am concerned so I plan to think about ways to encourage my players to consider Self-compels.
Why are Self-compels so great?

Well for a number of reasons, but personally, I enjoy them because they give a degree of narrative control over to the players; rather than just having the GM hand you down the details of a scene, if you have suggested it as a Compel then you gain the ability to negotiate the details of the complicating scene or decision with the GM, it also personalises whatever occurs and you know that it is plot based specifically around your character
Self-compels also let your GM know what sort of stories and complications you’re looking for when it comes to your character, and most GMs are more than happy to oblige by providing additional scenes tailored to your character since they want everyone to enjoy the game, they are also useful for moving a session along when perhaps the pre-planned plot has stalled or you’ve reached a natural pause.

Plus it also gains you a fate point allowing your character to really shine when it counts 🙂