by Gerald "Gray" Chartier
A certain amount of plot in the Camarilla’s Vampire LARP generated itself. What generated plot was competition between PCs for status and position within their sects and clans. PCs had multiple levels of self-interest to attend to. They defended the Camarilla (the in-game sect) from external enemies, their clans from the machinations of the other clans, their coteries of allies from the maneuverings of other coteries, and ultimately themselves from the rest of the world. As you can imagine, that made fertile ground for PC politicking, and a considerable part of the player base was perfectly happy to spend whole games doing just that.
By comparison, Realms barely has any in-game politics at all. I’m not saying it has none, but certainly it doesn’t have it to anywhere near the degree Vampire does. There’s not too much jockeying for power, because our nations tend to be extended groups of friends, with the leaders being the people who take leadership roles in the OOC aspect of our community. There’s not a lot of favor-currying because there’s little reward for doing so, and little detriment to not doing so. Nations don’t compete for resources, because there’s nothing to compete over. About the only PC-vs-PC conflict we have stems from personal slights or theft, and such things are usually dealt with directly and immediately.
Absent IC causes for conflict, Realms is left with a population of characters that are largely reasonable(ish) people taking reasonable(ish) actions to resolve problems presented by the plots of events. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it means plot doesn’t self-generate. Without self-generating social plot, theres’s very little to do for people who don’t want to run around and either hit things or solve puzzles.
I don’t want to leave anybody thinking I want Realms to be just like the Camarilla’s live action Vampire chronicle. However, I think there are some things we can learn from it. For one, information relevant to creating and playing a character in the game is much more readily available. Second, the setting is well enough developed to lend a certain degree of consistency wherever one happened to play. Third, the system and setting give reasons for PC vs PC conflict to exist, and ways besides direct conflict to engage in them. All of these things promote roleplay and lend themselves to player immersion.
I’d like to see Realms take some steps to mimic the better aspects of live Vampire/the Camarilla. One step we as a community could take that would be relatively simple would be to make information about Realms’ history and nations more readily accessible to new players. The website could have tabs about IC history and nations above the tab for the rules. Knowing how to play the game is important, but knowing how to play a character is equally important.
I’d also like to see our setting developed and fleshed out, but obviously this would be a much more complicated undertaking. There is already a wealth of player-generated content, but somebody (or somebodies) would have to sift through it, and decisions would have to be made on what was kept as canon and what was set aside. That would be quite the project, but doable.
The third point is stickier, because I think it would require new mechanics, plus a certain amount of top-down plot which Realms doesn’t have any mechanism to create or implement. However, I think having nations negotiate treaties and trade deals with each other would add a level of depth to our shared world, plus another way to interact with it, and one that doesn’t necessarily have to involve hitting things with sticks.
Lastly, I’d like to see a certain amount of top-down generated plot, or at least some consistent elements from event to event. This could be in the form of a Realms Regional Storyteller, or simply a consensus among a majority of EHs to have everyone pick up and run with the same ball, but having a big meta-plot to interact could hardly fail to deepen everyone’s immersion.