Thursday, February 18, 2010

Antagonist design

I chose Hunter: The Vigil as a good game to run for my local club for two main reasons.
  1. The core concept is fairly simple to grasp, and doesn't deviate much from, say, 'traditional' D&D. You are hunting monsters. You do so either for money, entertainment, to settle a debt / grudge or to protect the people and places you hold dear.
  2. Hunter is a good gateway drug to introduce the players to the other World of Darkness games.
I try to keep these two aims in mind - keep the concept simple, introduce the players to other supernatural beings - when planning sessions.
Ok, you might point out that last night was only the third session proper for this game, however i've kept it up so far.
The first story arc I ran, which as discussed earlier was only supposed to last a session, was about hunting a neonate vampire. It had a quick investigate / locate / fight structure, and served to introduce the players to the system, both roleplay and combat.

For the next story arc, I wanted to introduce another denizen on the WoD, and ran through a few options in my head.
A Promethean? Good idea, but possibly a bit too hard for them at this stage.
A Changeling? Again, good idea, but too complex at this stage.
Another Vampire? That would set a precedent and establish Vampires as the main antagonists of the game. I'd like to avoid that at the moment.
A Werewolf? Even a single Werewolf would tear them all to shreds right now. Maybe a challenge for later on.
A Slasher? I thought about being lazy and using one of the pre-gens from the Slasher book. I quite like the idea of Slashers as a distinct adversary within the setting. Maybe next time.

Instead I settled on using a ghost. Ghosts are supposed to be a core element of the new WoD, with specific Werewolf tribes, Mage paths, Promethean lineages being dedicated to them. And, of course, there's Geist.
So, ghosts are supposed to be fairly common, yet I feel they're often overlooked in favour of the game line specific baddy or other more exotic concepts.

I started by looking at the pre-gen ghosts at the back of the WoD core book. The 'deceiver' ghost looked most like what I wanted.

I then started thinking about motivation and anchors and the like.
I knew that the group would be challenged by a ghost, as they had no way of directly harming it, and the only way they would be able to resolve the challenge would be to either destroy its anchors or complete its unfinished work.

I knew that I wanted a hateful, murdering ghost and, because I wanted to keep things simple, decided that the ghost was a hateful murderer in life as well.
I'd been thinking about what fun I could have with the Phantasm numina, which is essentially an illusion only one person can see, and thought about having a cop shoot an innocent bystander because an illusion showed him brandishing a weapon at the cop.
Seemed like a classic way to get people killed or cause complications for somebody using a simple illusion, so I used it as the starting point for the concept.

Looking at anchors, I had a mobility problem.
I wanted the ghost to move around, yet most anchors are stationery, or if they can move, the ghost is unable to control that movement. Also, if I made a living person an anchor, they would have to kill them to banish the ghost. Whilst this would make for an interesting moral quandry, I don't think they're ready for it yet.
In the end, I settled on two anchors - an old taxi cab and an old shed. This gave me two distinct places / objects to be investigated and destroyed, and allowed some mobility.
Maybe a ghost shouldn't be able to drive a cab, but I fudged that.

So, the concept ended up as: Serial killing taxi driver returns from the dead to a/ continue his great work, and b/ extract his revenge on the cop that killed him. The dead cabbie haunts his old taxi cab, which he uses to collect fresh victims, and a shed on the outskirts of town, where he used to cut up his victims.

With this in mind, I had another look at the Deceiver template, and decided that it wasn't quite what I needed.
I statted my own ghost, of similar ability, and gave it telekinesis and animal control instead of ghost sign and terrify.

The finished product, plus my own notes for play, are below.
Unfortunately the group spent too much time dicking around investigating the last story arc to actually meet this guy, but hopefully next week...

Bill Redwood


Attributes: Power 4, Finesse 3, Resistance 4

Willpower: 8

Morality: 4

Virtue: Temperance

Vice: Lust

Initiative: 7

Defence: 4

Speed: 17

Size: 5

Corpus: 9   


Animal Control – Cost 1 essence. Power + Finesse – animals Resolve. Control 3 animals at once

Phantasm – Cost 1 Essence. Power + Finesse. Negative modifiers applied for complexity. Target makes Wits + Occult roll to disbelieve the illusion.

Telekinesis – Cost 1 Essence. Power + Finesse. Successes = ghosts relative strength. -3 modifier to attack directly, ignores Defence, cover and armour.

Anchors: Old taxi cab, Killing hut in South West Philadelphia

History: Bill Redwood had been a cabbie in Philadelphia for ten years when he got stiffed for a fare. He chased the fare down and when he caught up with him, a fight ensued. Bill didn’t mean to kill him, but when he did, he was left with blood on his hands and a body to dispose of.

He took the corpse to an old warehouse near the airport that his Uncle used to work out of, cut the body up and fed it to the local stray dogs.

Whether it was the act of killing, or the cutting and dismemberment afterwards, but something broke in Bill from that point.

The next fare dodger was hunted down and disposed of in the same way. And then another. Then Bill started driving the long way round to bump up the fare. Then he started looking for other reasons – Queue jumpers. Rude people. Ugly people. Pretty people. People who wouldn’t be missed.

This carried on for months, all the while Bill upped his game and targeted more and more challenging prey.

People soon noticed, and Philadelphia became gripped with a fear of the Cabbie Killer.

The city’s cab drivers pulled together and attempted to police their ranks. Local government ran campaigns to raise safety awareness. The Philly PD worked overtime to track the killer down.

In the end, it was luck that stopped Bill Redwood. Two bored patrol cops stopped his cab near the edge of the National Wildlife Refuge, and discovered the separated remains of Redwood’s latest victim in the trunk.

Redwood was shot, executed, in cold blood by Officer Phil Davies after he surrendered. Davies’ partner, Nick Richmond, corroborated Davies’ story that Redwood had moved to attack them with a hatchet.

The truth is, Redwood was relieved to have finally been caught, and was willing to hand himself in.