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Vampire Retrospective: Dave Martin

Posted on November 14, 2011 by Flames

The Vampire Retrospective Project continues with a new essay from Dave Martin. Dave is the leader of the Wrecking Crew demo team. The Wrecking Crew ran a number of Vampire tabletop games at this year’s Grand Masquerade in New Orleans.

I am a better therapist because of Vampire.

I know this sounds crazy but it’s true. I run specialty groups for men in prison and on probation – between two jobs I run twelve of these groups every week with each group consisting of six to twelve men. It is my job to confront or challenge them in order to help them grow and meet their own goals. At the same time, I have to compare all of my participants’ clinical histories, match them to theories of treatment, and determine how they can benefit the group as a whole all without limiting the ability of my clients to express themselves and the issues which are significant to them as individuals. In short, while I must tend to each member of the group as an individual, I also have to see them as something more than their individual needs and goals.

This is what I do when I run a Vampire game. On one side, I have my players with their own inclinations and their characters. For example, I have one player who is nearly impervious to fear, while another normally plays Machiavellian characters who manipulate their coterie mates (and his fellow players alike) – within four games he will usually have a “patsy” lined up to take the fall for whatever he has planned. In order to run the game smoothly, I have to find story elements which interest the players and their characters as well as elements which can cause players as disparate as the two above to work together. Just as in group, the point is to challenge everyone both as individuals and as a group.

I take these story elements and characters and then insert them into my city. I take the sand box approach to Storytelling. Generally speaking, that means there are four layers in a city:

1) The Surface – Every element of the story which is easily accessible to those who live in the city (e.g. Laurett is the new Prince and the Tremere have taken a huge hit from the Sabbat last month).

2) The Top Layer – Those elements of the story which are only revealed after a bit of digging. These usually take the form of questions (e.g. Why did the last Prince voluntarily step down? Why are the Ventrue taking a backseat right now?)

3) The Meat – These are the elements to the story which answer the questions from the second layer (e.g. the last Prince stepped down so that he could manipulate the new Prince; the Ventrue are partially responsible for the breach that allowed the Sabbat to assault the Tremere and are keeping a low profile because of it.)

4) Secrets – Elements of the story which most characters will never come across but influence the story nonetheless (e.g. the true identity of the Prince of D.C.).
Once the sandbox is developed and the characters have been dropped in, the name of the game is consequences. The players choose what they will do. If they choose to stop and participate in an event (or orchestrate one) then they have to deal with the consequences; conversely, if they allow an event to happen without their participation they have to deal with the consequences. This challenges the players to gauge the consequences of their actions (and inactions) before they act. When presented with consequences the characters are confronted by the results of their actions. By weaving all of these consequences together, I cause the players to consider their own goals and actions but also how they function as a group. Just like my therapy groups.

I am a better therapist because of Vampire.

Dave Martin – 2011

If you are interested in submitting an essay for the Vampire Retrospective Project please review the Submission Guidelines and let us know if you have any questions.

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