I posted this on the community bad_rpers_suck this morning, and it seems to have been pretty well received, so I figured I may as well post it here as well, for those of you who are into this sort of thing.
This is a story from years and years ago – some time around 1999, if I remember correctly.
I was the Domain Storyteller for the local Camarilla group – the official LARP community for Vampire: The Masquerade (basically, the head GM for the city), and was running a weekly game for all of the local players. It was a pretty large affair, with around 30 or so players.
For those of you unfamilliar with Vampire LARP (and in this perhaps you should consider yourself lucky), these games tended to attract a lot of very casual players. This isn’t a knock against them per se; different people look to get different things out of their roleplaying experience than others. The casual players I’m talking about are those who were just interested in showing up and socializing in-character... and sometimes only just BARELY in-character. I had one occasion where a player was hanging around in-game, when I quietly asked him, out of character “which character are you playing tonight?”, only to have him impishly smile, shrug, and reply “I don’t know. Whoever”, immediately before I expelled him from the game area until he had a proper character I could approve.
This story involves one of these fellows who quickly found himself out of his element when he was reminded that he was playing in a game which is supposed to be about “gothic horror”.
I will call this fellow, for the sake of this story, “Family Man.” Family Man had been playing for years, and was a friend and room-mate of the fellow mentioned above. He had created a character who I shall call “Boris”, who was one of the most irritating Vampire characters I had ever seen. Boris was a Brujah; a clan of vampires known for their brutality, violent tempers and wild, out of control frienzies. They were modeled loosely upon the vampires in the original Lost Boys movie. In spite of this, Boris was a fellow who, before becoming a vampire, had a wife and kids, a house in the suburbs, and a thoroughly middle-class life. After becoming a vampire... he still had all of these things. He just faked continuing to be a human, worked a graveyard shift, and everything was hunky-dorey for him.
I’ll stop here to clarify for a moment that, as the Domain Storyteller for the area, I had a number of subordinate storytellers, one of whom had approved Boris. He did not need to consult me for this approval, per the rules of the organization, and that’s a shame, since I would never have approved such a thematically-inappropriate character.
Anyway. Family Man had been playing Boris for some months, and been quietly accumulating a great deal of experience points. He had never spent any of them, because he didn’t care to; he was only there to hang around in-character and chat with his friends. Nothing bad was ever going to happen to him! Why should he worry about leveling up his character?
There was another player in the game. I will call him “Six”. He was playing another vampire of a decidedly antagonistic bent who I will call “Toshi”, a young japanese teenager who had been made a vampire of the Tremere clan; a group of highly ambitious and ruthless warlocks. He was a bizarre character, but not entirely out of keeping with his clan, unlike Boris. One night, Toshi took exception to some things Boris had to say. I don’t know what; I wasn’t there for that exchange. Nevertheless, it led to a small rivalry which Toshi eventually grew tired of; he disliked being talked down-to by this affable lummox who plainly was not afraid of the consequences of his actions coming back to haunt him (“nothing bad is ever going to happen to me!”).
Now, the game had what is called an “influence” system. In essence, it represented the ability of vampires (and others) to influence society around them through mind control, bribes, intimidation and other means. It’s a really neat system, and probably the best thing the Camarilla did was to make it more complex and involved; each week, players could exert a certain amount of “influence” over the city (depending on how many points of influence they’d earned in-game), and perform these elabourate chess games against one another. One person uses his police influence to try to destroy another’s underworld influence by pointing his mind-controlled police chief in the direction where the other vampire’s mind controlled mob boss had his meeting held that week, and as a result of that loss, the other vampire loses access to the cash, drugs, money and such he got from that influence. A good, involved system.
Toshi played this aspect of the game relentlessly, constantly building and expanding his web of influences, and covertly keeping track of what everyone else was doing. Boris never made a single use of the system. Why should he? He was just there to socialize and hang out!
At around this time, I had a storyline going on; there was a group of vampire hunters employed by the Vatican slowly and carefully investigating the city, and were accumulating and making use of their own web of influences each week in pursuit of this. Nobody else even noticed the frightening base of resources these guys were building up, except for Toshi, and he was VERY careful to make sure they never noticed him. It was a very close thing, though, and he was absolutely playing with fire when he started using his own influences to covertly infiltrate theirs.
Eventually, Toshi decided it was time to rid himself of Boris. He had no interest in getting his hands dirty, though, and so instead he used his influences to very carefully deliver to these professional vampire hunters a thorough dossier on Boris and his human family, figuring that one problem would deal with the other, no matter how it turned out.
And so, one night, as Boris is “just hanging out and socializing” with his vampire friends at this social gathering, vampire hunters were infiltrating his home. They took his children, and quietly put them on a plane bound for Rome, where they could be raised away from their hell-spawned father. They took his wife away, where she could be taught of the evil she had allowed into her home. They had put a tracking device on Boris’s car, so that they would know when he was coming and going. Family Man, of course, had taken no actions at all that could have prevented any such incursion, and no preparations had been made whatsoever to protect his family. Nothing bad was ever going to happen to him!
And then Boris got home. The player had been given no hint that this was taking place, and so he was just very, very lucky that he happened to be pals with one of the toughest vampires in town, a brute we will call DaggerMouth, who had been relentlessly putting experience points towards his combat skills for years. When he entered his home, a trigger was set off on his front door which set off a bomb, wounding them both. Hunters came flooding from prepared positions inside and outside of the house at that point, armed with high caliber guns and wooden stakes. Boris ran for his life, and was exceptionally lucky that DaggerMouth was just barely able to hold them off, narrowly avoiding a stake to the heart which would have been the end of him (as they then would have cut his head off while he was incapacitated).
Boris calls a few of his buddies, and they make a few lame attempts to try to locate and rescue the wife and kids. These hunters, having had centuries of experience with vampires, knew what to expect of them and their powers, and had taken steps to prevent their efforts from working.
At this point, Family Man – Out of character – flips the fuck out.
He starts screaming at me in front of the entire gaming group that he considered this terribly unfair. He’s not here to have bad things happen to his character! How dare I do this to him? I told him that this was an entirely player-driven thing, that I had not initiated it. He told me that he didn’t care; I should have prevented other players from being able to do bad things to his. I told him “I’m not going to give you punch-in-the-face immunity just because you don’t like your character being punched in the face. What kind of precedent does that set?”
He started really losing it at this point, threatening to punch ME in the face if I didn’t fix this. I was getting pretty sick of his childish tantrum at this point, and so I thrust my jaw out at him and told him. “Then go for it. Take a fucking swing. I won’t stop you, and I won’t punch back. Everyone can watch you do it, and then you’ll be that guy. You want to be that guy?” This seemed to mollify him a bit, and he backed down quickly, but he was still deeply upset.
The game came to an end for the night then, naturally, and everyone went home. In the weeks to follow, though, I would get a lot of abuse about “Toshi’s Personal Army”, and how he could employ them to get away with anything he wanted. Not just from Family Man, but from the player of DaggerMouth, from the subordinate storyteller who had approved Family Man, from that player who had shown up with no character sheet, and their entire clique of casual players. A deep rift formed in the gaming group between those who were just there to hang out and resented the fact that there was an actual game afoot... and those who were there to play a game of Gothic Horror.
And this is where things got really ugly. But I’ll tell that story tomorrow.
tl;dr: a player in a large live-action Vampire: The Masquerade game which I was running, who was not apparently taking the game seriously at all, had his ill-conceived character’s life torn apart as a result of careful and painstaking machinations by another player character. The player freaks out, threatens to attack me physically for not having prevented him from doing so, and in this childish tantrum, tears the gaming group in half.