ROLE PLAYING FOR BEGINNERS.
A diary of my early RPG experiences, also known as The Quagmass Chronicles.I may be a little old to get into toys and games at 37, but then, who cares. You’re only young once so you might as well stay child-like until you die.
I first heard of role-playing games in the 70’s when Dungeons and Dragons were all the rage. I was probably put off by the awful children’s cartoon series of the same name though.
I wanted to play the Call of Cthulu, as I was and am, quite a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, but no one invited me to play. I was always crap at football and other sports, so no one ever picked me to join a team if there was still a legless blind player as the last alternative to being lumbered with me. I think everyone, including me, thought I’d be as bad and indifferent at RPG, but I was recently able to prove that theory wrong.
Some of my chums at FAB Cafe invited me to a game of Vampire: The Masquerade at a house in Rusholme, Manchester. I went along, primarily to watch. I stepped in briefly to play the first victim of a series of werewolf murders, and later took on the guise of a Gangrel character created by another player who had gone off to bed. (we played through the night, like real vampires, and dropped off to sleep one by one after dawn, but I was hooked.
At first, it was admittedly boring, whilst waiting for the main players to create their character sheets. If you are going along to watch a game before playing one yourself (not all players approve of spectators) arrive a little later to avoid the part where character sheets are compiled.
The game itself is immensely exciting By the finale, half of us were dead; many others, including myself, (as I lost both arms), maimed (all in the game of course. As players we were perfectly all right). The werewolves struck. We threw silver grenades; I tried to batter down the security fortress where our traitorous friend had sealed himself to protect himself from our counterattacks. One member trapped in his van by a werewolf was killed just as he killed it, because a colleague threw a silver grenade in the van with him, and blew him away to dusty death. Ha!
For my second game, I was able to create a character of my own. From what I had seen, I now had some idea how the character sheets work. It was less boring actually completing one. I looked through the list of clans that my character could come from. I had no acting ability or experience. I never even did a school nativity play in a pre-atheistic Catholic upbringing. I wondered whether to play someone like myself, or someone utterly removed from what I see myself as. I settled on the Malkavian clan, a species of vampires fuelled by their own innate insanity. I played a raving lunatic called Quagmass, a name of my devising. I pictured him with wild staring eyes, frothing at the mouth, wearing a straight-jacket with the arms punched through to make it into a tee-shirt; ragged trousers, and bearing, brandishing a plastic whale called Fish (because it is a Marrilion fan) . The prop came from the bathroom of one of the people in who’s houses we played out our Masquerade. It seems to have adopted me. I have taken it along for subsequent games, provoking many ‘What’s the whale for? comments from people seeing it.
No werewolves appeared in this second game so far, but we were dealing with immortals, who are well known from the Highlander films and TV series. Fish and I have been commended for playing well, perhaps too well. Many fail to notice even in breaks from the game when I am speaking as Arthur rather than as Quag, or Quaggy as my alter-ego is known. My character is a prankster; he has insights of wisdom in his childlike insanity. Some just mistake him for an outright loony. So far, he has painted a Rolls-Royce red, forced a lovely young female vampire to feel intense relief for a month, even when faced with impending tragedy, and insulted the Vampire-Prince of the city on many occasions. His best gag remains the quicksand jape. He convinced one vampire that his safe haven was safe due to being a dilapidated lunatic asylum surrounded by quicksands to which only he knows the safe paths. He took her there under pursuit by an immortal, to show her what she saw as a run down old hostel for winos, surrounded by harmless muddy fields, and the safe path, when she asked me about it, turned out to be the concrete path leading quite visibly up to the house itself.
Under attack, Melissa (her vampiric name) proved able to hide by becoming one with the Earth, giving me the impression she had sunk in the quicksand, which I also believe to contain my creator-sire, Bogbrain. Later we dug Melissa up, and she got better, a fate rarely achieved by those drowned in quicksand.
I am able to throw my voices, and that has helped us a bit too, especially when the immortals are after us. We tried making friends with one, but two of our pals have ransacked his house and smashed one of his priceless antique chairs and decapitated him. His fellow immortals may not now be pleased with us. There are hints and omens that Bogbrain may be up and about too - I do hope so. I would dearly love my friends to meet the one man saner than I.
Seriously, Masquerade is a great game. Some players can lose concentration, which can be distracting, but most stay with it, fully absorbed.
I’m now contacting other Masquerade players too, especially Malkavians. Here is how one site describes me in relation to my guest book entry at their site.
Arthur (Quagmass) Chappell , 37, of Manchester, England died 10-Jul-99 05:33 AM. A fan of that spawn of Satan game, Vampire: the Masquerade, his demise moved the doomsday clock back by a full 15 minutes. In recognition of his patronage of B.J. Zanzibar's World of Darkness, which drew Arthur (Quagmass) Chappell into its vile clutches though word of mouth, his body will be interred with full gamer geek honours in the BJZ WoD Guestbook.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made by assembling a mob and burning down , Arthur (Quagmass) Chappell 's own personal den of iniquity.
(They then provide a link to this very page).
In his last desperate moments before being devoured by a rabid , Arthur (Quagmass) Chappell had this to say:
New player, only having played two games of masquerade, and adapting a Malkavian madman character which I have made too comfortably convincing - many people find it difficult to believe me when I try to be sane - probably says something about me there. Learning more by the day - may well create a web page on the views I have of the game shortly - watch this space - Yours Sincerely; Arthur (Quagmass) Chappell email@example.com
The games I ran as GM (Games-master, not genetically modified food-stuffs) have gone extremely well. I have GM'd four games to date. In the first I brought in the dreaded modern Inquisitional vampire hunters, who were masquerading as fire-men, using the darkness of bonfire night to burn down suspected vampire havens. In this story, my Inquisitor hero, Ezekial Shines, arranges the brainwashing of the vampires to have them kill a Prince who they are sworn to protect themselves. The complex plot was borrowed from the film/book The Manchurian Candidate.
My second game (so reassuring to be invited to run another) was the funniest and gave Quagmass a chance to shine again as I was able to GM this in his guise. This was a deliberately silly game in which vampires from masquerade attempt to stop a war between Wombles and Clangers, taking on Soup Dragons, Daleks, and captain Scarlett on the way, along with a few other TV and movie heroes. The whole thing of course proves to be a delusional fairy enchantment, and as the story begins on March 31st and ends after midnight, Quagmass was able to declare his pride in trickery by shouting 'April Fool!' at the other players, especially the poor Lady Constance who ended the game sat in Quaggy's bath full of alphabetti Spaghetti.
My third game involved a simple blood hunt. A vampire was giving away secrets of life under the Masquerade, and I sent my team out to kill him, which they managed beautifully. I really made this game up as I went along and it was a lot of fun.
My fourth game took our heroes to China to encounter a variety of Vampires Of The East, as they escorted an elderly female vampire (played beautifully by a young male actor) from on end of the country to the other, facing all manner of new dangers, including the old lady herself who has a tendency to turn into a demon.
I am busy exploring Masquerade games online and talking to players around the world. Quagmass, Bbb..Bob , Ezekial, and other characters will return, of that you can be sure, so lock your doors, and clean your necks ready - the vampires are coming!!!!
On Sunday 20th February 2000 I finally played directly in the live Masquerade game again. It has been a long time coming. Now I was involved in a Live Action game with students from Manchester Metropolitan University. (which used to be the Polytechnic building)
The transition from Table Top Role Playing Games (TTRP) to Live Action Role Playing (LARP) is quite a culture shock to put it mildly.
I had anticipated a relatively minor change or two in Quagmass's character and personality for the new game. In fact, he was very heavily re-invented. In TTRP character personality traits you can choose from are more varied, and you have an allocated number of 'Freebie' points you can use to help enhance your character's ability. You can make him 'athletic' or a computer wizard, etc. In TTRP you get 15 Freebie points. In LARP you get merely 3. This meant much I have long associated with Quagmass had to be dropped or redefined to make him afresh. Before LARP he was a 13th Generation vampire. Now he was 10th Generation. Actually that is something of an improvement.
LARP is very like improvisational theatre. We arrived at the student Union Building to a large room which had been carefully laid out with chairs and props at various points. It was easily large enough to accommodate 30 players and sundry referees and non-Participation Players (NPC's). Ten or twelve was the most players I had seen at once in any of my games before.
After a demonstration of the bartering gambling system used to outbid one another that takes over from dice rolling in combat situations, the game commenced. The pace was intense, and we moved quickly between two distinct dimensions, as the minimalist setting proved very flexible. Asked late in the game to tear down the false dimension taht had trapped us all, we almost started trashing the walls of the union room too.
This was a fun game played over some four to five hours. Sometimes it was hard to know what was going on the other side of the room where some aspects of the story were going on, and some players took impromptu breaks of their own instead of waiting for allocated time-outs. At one point in mid-crisis we ere interrupted by two (off-duty) vampires walking past with take-away beef-burgers from a nearby restaurant. The theme of the game was dark and dangerous. My character came the closest to death that he has ever faced, but it was never less than hugely enjoyable.
The Manchester By Night group have a their own newsletter - here is the full draft of an article that may appear in part in that very journal.
QUAGMASS - Summary details - for Signs And Portents
Malkavian Vampire Quagmass, carries and talks to a plastic toy whale called
Haven - the unofficial asylum of Doctor Jonathon Forrett (Psychiatrist)
FEEDING Methods - Mainly feeds from Dr. Forrett, his current herd member -
and sometimes hunts on the streets, - sometimes makes victims wash their
necks first. Considering sucking blood through Fish (using it as a straw)
after initial embrace bite with his own teeth. Doctor supplies him with
illegal psychiatric drugs which should be on prescription only) and Quaggy
and the Doctor arrange traps for biting of patients. and enquirers. A page
on Quagmass written by the Doctor outlining Quagmass's out of session
adventures appears at http://arthurchappell.me.uk/quagmass.htm
20th February 2000 SESSION lessons and events concerning Quagmass -
LESSONS LEARNED - a/. Some Vampires avoid Malkavians, while others talk to
us freely, if not too freely. General sense in the air of Oh God, not
another one. A few may be trying to wind Q up for their own amusement. One
tried to sell Fish his own little gun. Q is mad, not stupid.
Some see Q as gibbering and unimportant, which makes him a useful spy.
Others shoo him away. He goes freely rather than making a fuzz (for now)
ACTIVITIES - Fish swallowed a capsule containing occult power - no one
noticed until Q quite voluntarily made Fish spit it out into the Sheriff's
hand. Presence of Fish told established players right away that Q is a
DISCIPLINES - a/. Use of Auspex senses in eavesdropping, but barely
people simply ignored Quagmass anyway. He makes a good spy. (Problems
understanding what he sees though for others). b/. Obfuscated a few times to
escape trouble and for close nosey-parkering - spotted once, but merely
advised to steer clear of a dangerous possessed figure he was watching.
Spotted second time and challenged by domination skills and forced to stay
clear of the tarot area for 30 minutes. Joined other Malkavians in general
collective inescapable Passion attack on someone we wanted to feel elation
at his new promotion. PRANKS - a/. Fish placed on peoples
heads so it could see things better during crowd scenes - several people
surprisingly didn't object. b/. slapping fish to make it stop pulling faces
and making him giggle when important things were happening. c/. Q added his
own childish drawings of himself, victims and Fish to Tarot gallery, for
everyone but inadvertently touched one tarot card himself, and gained a
vision of the past trial of another vampire already witnessed in one plane
of reality. d/. Handed back drawing surprisingly later Q fed it to Fish who
vomited the pictures page back out onto head of vampire who gave it to him.
e/. Supported general Malkavian Prank to ignore anyone wearing ponytails, no
matter what they said to us, aborted by the clan for now due to lack of
general communication there anyway. f/. Fish was approached s cute and
lovely several times, and even kissed a few girls. g/. Asked to use his
medical skill on a wounded vampire, Q stopped his screaming by asking him to
bite on Fish as if biting on a bullet, and pushed Fish into the poor wretch's
mouth - the blinding light from the victim briefly dazzled Quagmass though.
GENERAL POINTS - a/. Quaggy afflicted by general attack on all vampires with
Auspex discipline - in state of heightened hysteria for ten minutes or so.
b/. During this spell, Quagmass picked up a discarded stake and used it in a
game of trying to stake Fish, but the Stake was a potent occult symbol.
Touching it gave Quagmass a terrible vision of wraiths and death and terror.
c/. Quagmass tried to warn others of this horror, but no one believed him.
Some took it as Malkavian ranting. Some believed Q but had no idea what to do
about it anyway. The clues were garbled and cryptic enough without
Malkavians remembering random words from the oath (in Milton's Paradise
Lost) Some as no news anyway as we were already in danger, some didn't seem
to care. Only when the full loud recitation of the vision erupted by itself
from Quagmass did people sense something was really going on. Q collapsed to
the floor under the exhaustion of the prophesy and lost even more willpower
points accordingly. He attracted a full circle of people then, the first
crowd focussed just on him - "Don't you just hate it when that happens?" he
said defiantly and flippantly as someone helped him to his feet. d/. He said
much that went unheard by all but a few. He compared the monolithic stone to
that in 2001 Space Oddessy, arguing rightly that breaking it would change us
all in some way. No one heard the prophetic note of that. e/. Q made up
silly stories to show patterns were possible to interpret in the tarot
deck - in fact there was a definite pattern in the card layout as we
discovered later. Q repeated his prophetic lines from Milton's paradise Lost
as we stood in formation round the stone, and the wraiths tried to take us.
f/. Q called directly to everyone to break the stone to destroy the demon
which only made the demon attack Q, directly touching him with demonic
reducing Q to low blood count and barely any willpower - so Q was just about
able to survive then. Defiant to the last Q called to the creature "Don't
you think you're over reacting a bit?" It appeared not to hear, but others
nearby did and advised Q to silence for his own safety. Q may now be tainted
by the demon's touch and his behaviour may be influenced in some way by the
encounter when next he appears. g/. Q asked several
Gangrel if they had met Bogbrain during their earthmelds as Bogbrain was
still not returned from the mire he went into a long time before. Gangrels proved to be sympathetic listeners but unable to assist.
SUNDAY 19th March 2000
Quagmass was in action again today at the Manchester Met rooms, which this time served as the Vampire meeting centre at the Whitworth Art Gallery. Vampires move around from gathering to gathering, never staying in any one place for long.
This was a very quiet game, referred to by many a s a game for reflection and penance, but for some players it was too quiet compared to the intense game played the previous month. Quite a few people drifted off to the bar mid game. That's a shame because there was much good activity here too - various things were going on. An illness drove some vampires to strange behaviour - Rhavin, Malkavian Sheriff of the Masquerade was driven to biting his own kind and was eventually staked and sent to the box for en-torpored vampires. (Stakes don't kill vampires in the Masquerade games, but do paralyse them). Quagmass stumbled on two gargoyles and almost managed to hire them as his personal garden gnomes, but he was spotted doing this, and told off. Mortals walked in our midst too, and eventually a visiting Prince from Southern England came to point out that our Fief was and is in a terribly insecure state - he also spoke to Quagmass and established that Quaggy is as yet unable to recite the rules of the Masquerade itself which new vampires are supposed to know off by heart. (I am familiar with them but not to the point of memorising them). Quagmass and several other vampires are due to be schooled in such arts now.
Quagmass stood Fish as a candidate in a vital Camarilla election, speaking with a passion induced by his colleagues, but failed to win enough votes to gain office. Quaggy spied on the mysterious Giovani Vampire, the Gargoyles, mortals and other visitors too. A Toreador tried to spike Quaggy's complimentary blood (actually blackcurrant juice in bottles, presented as wine) with Marijuana, but Quagmass was able to resist the effects of this. He was however later affected by his beast trait fear of mud, following an unprovoked assault by another character. Quagmass clung to the walls of the room shrieking in terror that the floor was in danger of swallowing him until a colleague talked him down from his panic. Quaggy also looked in on the Ventrue clan room where some intense plotting was going on, and games of chess were afoot. but he was quickly sent away from here.
We learned that the leader of the Malkavians is still trapped by the stake and likely to stay so for April Fool's day when Malkavian
Pranks are rife - it will be up to the rest of us to make the day go well.
It was a good game on the whole, fragmented and patchy as the action was - the best performances were those of the NPC's, especially the gargoyles (later seen also as the visiting Prince and his security officer) and the young mortal lady who stumbled upon us.
EXTRA! EXTRA! - A rare and dangerous document concerning the exploits ofQuagmass has fallen into my hands - Read it for yourself
Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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