Friday, 15 July 2016

Playing to character in the Dracula Dossier

Frank Langella as Dracula, 1979
I think one of the more interesting things about horror movies, particularly in the survival horror genre, is the way in which characters respond in different ways to the exigencies they are subject to. In roleplaying games we sometimes lose sight of this. RPGs can become an exercise in problem solving - for example, the typical dungeon bash prioritises staying alive, and working as a team to meet various threats that arrive in the course of exploration of an environment. A team of adventurers is a delicately balanced congregation of participants, relying on each other's complementary skills and powers to achieve their objectives.

In our ongoing Dracula Dossier campaign, our team of agents have been working together as a team in the early sessions. They represent the employees of a small Zurich based 'security consultancy'. However, they come from disparate cultural backgrounds - a Russian, a German, an Israeli and a Brit. They used to work for different spy agencies, and may have conflicting agendas. As we creep further into the complex plot, the tensions between the PCs are growing, which is great from a dramatic point of view, although potentially dangerous too.

Sten Brodrington, our former MI6 man, seems like a dapper gent in the Roger Moore mold, but also seems to be keen to avoid dangerous situations. Sadly, in our last session, he was grabbed and bitten by a vampire, who now seems to have some level of telepathic leverage over him (possibly of a Sanity-eroding nature, although our GM has been kind so far). He has also suffered permanent nerve damage in his neck. Sten has always struck me as someone who has worked hard to keep out of harm's way, but harm still seems to have a habit of seeking him out.

Natasha Avram is a Russian hellcat assassin from the GRU stable. To be honest, she seems to have dished out much of the hurt to the opposition, and always seems ready to be the first one through the door. Despite almost getting the entire team killed by using a taser against a suicide vest, her brand of shoot first, ask questions later seems to be getting results. Her execution of an unarmed art dealer in the middle of an 'interrogation' session may bear further examination. Also, there is the issue of the missing vampire head - where did that go? Has Natasha really left the GRU? She needs to be watched.

Max Fischer, our German team member, seems the most ethical, and has close ties to the Catholic Church. He looks like a straight player and keen to avoid unnecessary collateral damage. He is probably the most trustworthy of the team at the moment, at least in my character's opinion (I think we may be seeing a realignment of trust points next session).

Which brings me to my character, Carmel Shaked. Carmel is mechanically the least stable, having started with 50 Sanity, although she has recovered a little from her recent encounters in London (when a house fell on top of her). Carmel is our explosives and infiltration specialist, formerly working for Mossad and now in the private sector. I've been trying to find ways to play Carmel's declining Sanity and increasing flakiness in the face of supernatural events. This has been manifesting partly in resorts to violence (although here she has been trumped by the deadly Avram) and partly in executing unilateral and slightly risky plans in the midst of pressure situations (she blew the roof off an office block in Rotterdam this week).

The team has retreated to Zurich to lick its wounds, following a run-in with a vampire in the Netherlands. We're still trying very hard to figure out what is going on. We've encountered four vampires in different locations, but only succeeded in slaying one. We're also still working out a means of being certain we can kill them, although Carmel has picked up some phosphorous grenades from a lock up in Zurich which she has distributed to the team members.

Next stop: Budapest. Who knows what we'll find there?


  1. I liked Carmel going a bit off-piste during the Rotterdam adventure. If you look at the sanity scores, everyone seems to be doing quite well, but things are more complicated than that. Even Max's extreme stability is starting to look a little odd.

  2. No idea how my Sanity has gotten to the giddy heights of about 99. Madness!
    Great session. Looking forward to the next one! Summer break has come too soon for the campaign's sake. Oh well! I need a rest though. Not that I'll get one! Beasticus has been up as have I for hours! 6am+ . Ug!