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Chronicle Concept: Power Play

by: Belladonna A Legacy Article from Sanguinus Curae

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Setting: This Chronicle will encompass almost every aspect and locale within any given city as the story progresses. For your sake as a Storyteller it would be wise to use the city you are most familiar with as a setting for this story, but feel free to use any city you desire if you so choose.

Plot Overview: The essential backbone of this story is a changing of the guard within Kindred society. The Chronicle will center around the fall of the Prince and the rise of a new Prince in his or her place. The characters will form a select group from the lower to middle echelons of the kindred power structure of the city. This is a highly political Chronicle, with the focus primarily on subterfuge and power games, but there will also be opportunity for direct conflict to spice things up a bit.

Character Motivation: Every story needs a reason for the characters to be involved, and this one is no exception. When the powers that be in a city decide to conflict with each other, most lower level characters would tend to think it best to simply keep their heads down. It would seem to be the wisest course of action. In this Chronicle, however, this is not the case.

A changing of the guard like this always offers opportunities for sharp kindred that are willing to play a little close to the edge. New alliances are formed, and favors are remembered by the winning side - as are slights and insults.

The characters must choose whom to support and whom to work against. They must take a measure of their own goals, because this is a perfect setting for ambition. They must also be aware that they are most likely to be pawns in someone else's game. They should be ready to play for or against these influences as well.

Story Outline: The current Ventrue Prince of the city has become lazy and complacent in his position. The political structure of the kindred in the city has remained unchanged for so long that there has been little need for vigilance in his opinion.

This opinion was mistaken.

The Prince's lack of concern or effective rule has become an enticement for the Primogen and powerful kindred in the city. Every Elder imagines they could be a better Prince, or simply covet the position for the power it brings. The Harpies whisper that change is coming, and the Sheriff has found his job increasingly difficult as plots thicken.

Worse still, there are rumors flying that a Justicar is coming to the city, and judgment will be swift when they arrive. The Prince is ignoring these whispers, dismissing them as the tales of the bored and superstitious. But the rumors are true, and whomever holds the most cards when the Justicar arrives will likely ascend the political throne. What will follow as the Chronicle unfolds will be a miasma of power struggles, favor-mongering, back-stabbing, rumors, lies, and double-dealing. Everybody will be out to make themselves look good while making everyone else look bad, and to discretely eliminate the worst of the competition outright.

The Story should unfold in three stages:
Stage One: Rumors - this is where the characters can gather information and choose their course somewhat as stories fly and whispers fill the nights.

Stage Two: Struggle - this is the point when the infighting begins and the Elders begin playing their hands. The characters would find opportunities arising for them to curry favor with elders or betray trusts as they try to climb the political ladder.

Stage Three: Reckoning - this should be the point when the Justicar arrives in town and the games come to an end as the final tallies are taken. Where will the characters end up? Did they choose the right side? Did their efforts ensure them lasting position and recognition, or notoriety and a quiet death?

Clan Generalizations - Currents in the Sea of Struggle
Assamite: The Assamites will see a situation like this to be perfect opportunity to further weaken the enemy. Contracts will be plentiful as kindred try to take each other out the old-fashioned way. The Assamites might even help matters along by delaying negotiations on certain contracts long enough to let other contracts be fulfilled - all in the effort to make sure that the end result is a weaker kindred structure overall.

Brujah: This is a difficult time for the Brujah, but still full of opportunity. They will be able to point at the failure of the Ventrue as the dominant clan and play up the difference between the two clans. They will be trying to turn the focus and popular opinion towards stronger and more active leadership. But to do this they will have to keep random outbursts to a minimum and downplay their own violent reputation.

Followers of Set: This scenario would be a playground of opportunity for the Setites. Playing to the fears and needs of the back-biting kindred of the city would allow them to establish a valuable beachhead that would be secure when the smoke cleared. Their presence would be subtle, careful, but quickly pervasive.

Giovanni: The Giovanni will also see this as a perfect opportunity to strengthen their presence in the city. They will be watching carefully from the sidelines and maneuvering in the shadows to try and ensure that the new Prince will be someone they can influence - or even control.

Malkavian: As a clan that can work together in subtle and insidious ways without seeming to, the Lunatics would bear watching. Perhaps they intend to put a Prince on the throne that is more open to Malkavian influence, or perhaps they intend an actual Malkavian Prince, or perhaps they could care less. Who can say? Whichever the case, the Malkavians are guaranteed to be stirring things up with rumors, pranks, and random elements.

Nosferatu: A Nosferatu Prince would never last by most kindred standards, and few Sewer Rats would care to be that public. A Prince firmly in the pocket of a Nosferatu elder is another matter, and the keepers of secrets would be playing their most precious cards in an effort to ensure that the future Prince was well and truly theirs.

Toreador: Few Toreador have the mentality to hold a Princeship for long, but fewer still are able to overcome their own ego enough to admit it. Artistes are notoriously disenchanted with the lack of respect they receive - real or imagined - and they would be using this situation to try for a better position when the dust settles. The powers and influences of the Toreadors are underestimated only at great risk, and their ability to sway opinion would make them formidable forces and allies in the struggle.

Tremere: The title of Prince is far too open to be coveted by the Tremere, they do their best work hidden from prying eyes. The city's chantry would be instead working to ensure that they directly controlled all the major powers when all was said and done. Prince, Primogen, Harpies, Sheriff - all would be targets for favors, threats, and control during the struggle.

Ventrue: The Blue Bloods believe in their hearts that it is their divine destiny to rule, but they are not above manipulating circumstances and even each other in their quest for the reins of leadership. It is in this clan that the most bitter infighting and plotting would be seen. No one is more ruthless in a political arena than pure-bred politicians.

Character Guidelines:
General: Characters that provide services, support, or favors to the right kindred at the right time will find those services remembered and repaid if they play their cards right. Serving the wrong person can make you enemies you don't want, or could see you eliminated as a liability when silence is needed. Successful characters may see themselves rewarded with status, possessions, thralls, or even the right to Embrace when all is said and done. The excitement and danger of the struggle is also a good motivation when compared to the unending sameness of immortality.

Brujah: Providing a little security or muscle for the right person at the right time can be a powerful tool - and coming to the rescue of another kindred in the nick of time can be a hefty debt in your favor.

Caitiff: Scorned, sometimes hunted, never accepted - this is no way to live out eternity. Offering services and favors in exchange for recognition and acceptance would be the modus operandi for any Caitiff caught up in the struggle.

Gangrel: While your clan as a whole could really care less who is in charge or what the politicians do with their unlives, you may have a different view. Having your favorite hunting ground or haven respected by the powers that be would certainly be a welcome change, and the luxury of just being left alone is often more expensive than it appears. If achieving these things mean you have to get involved a little bit, that's the price you have to pay.

Giovanni: Perhaps you are a contact or go-between for a Camarilla kindred marked for corruption by your elder, or perhaps you're just muscle lent out as a favor. Whatever the case, you are most likely to be thought of only as a pawn - but who is to say that a favor or two on the side won't serve you in the long run - as long as you don't get caught.

Lasombra Antitribu: Life is never easy for one of your kind, and your natural strengths makes the half-life on the edge of the Camarilla almost unbearable. But if you could gain the favor or gratitude of a powerful elder that could all change with time, and you could finally get your due.

Malkavian: Look at the silly bugs scramble around and run amok. It is to laugh. In a messy situation like this who would really care if you stirred the ant-hill a little bit? And then there's that other thing . . .

Nosferatu: If they only knew what you know, and if only you could learn more of what they do know. Information is a powerful tool, and maybe now is the time for your secrets to be heard - by the right ears of course.

Toreador: Embroilments like this always mean that the rest of the kindred stop paying attention to what's really important - not that they pay a great deal of attention anyway. Still, your ability to charm what you want out of people might serve well, and recognition is always a good thing. Maybe you should lend a hand - but to whom?

Tremere: The chantry comes first and the Regent's word is law. Serving the chantry interests well and gaining the favor of the Regent might involve a little risk, but such things are never forgotten. There might also be the opportunity to gain a little personal ground along the way - the Tremere aren't the only ones with secrets and hidden powers. Some of that could be yours if you play your cards right.

Ventrue: You may not be able to be Prince - not yet - but you can certainly make sure you are well-favored when it is all over and the new Prince takes control. Maybe now is the time to stop being a tool in the plot and start hatching a few plots of your own. You'll have to be careful, the elders are vigilant and their respect is harder to earn than their enmity.

Group and Game Cohesion: Every group of characters needs a reason to stick together and play nice with each other (at least on the surface). Any group is likely to be made up of several different clans with different environmental considerations and diverse goals. Given that the group in this Chronicle should be of the 9th to 13th generation they will all be in similar positions - on the underside of the conflict.

The simplest path to cohesion would be the kindred spirit mentality - a 'one for all and all for one' type thing. The group could be a secret coalition of lesser kindred that have pledged to help each other as they try to better their own positions. Being able to secretly call upon the strengths and skills of another clan in your struggle to gain favor and watch your back is a valuable thing.

This does not mean that the characters should ignore the influences and motivations of their clan, and it does not mean betrayals are impossible. You as the Storyteller must arbitrate the final group dynamic to suit the story.

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