Part One: Choosing Your City


"Location, Location, Location."


Back when I was STing on WOD: Las Vegas, early into the program, we had one asshole who showed up in the OOC room and went on about how you couldn't have a "good" Wraith game in Las Vegas. It was too new a city in too new of a country, he said, extolling the virtues of old cities on the East coast, or Europe.

I asked him if he'd seen what I had up so far - which I'll admit wasn't much at the time - and he said yes, sort of dismissively. So I made a comment about unimaginative people and logged off to go play. Needless to say, said asshole didn't join us; No great loss, there.

But you may have learned something.

Like what? I hate people who just need to pop in, pee on your parade and then vanish to their "real" chat site. If a game's not to your taste, at least be polite enough to recognize that other people like it. And if you have nothing constructive to say, then just keep your yap shut and fuck off back to where you came from.

Yes, there is nothing like the rude truth to ruin one's day... such as the one who dares to inform the Emperor that his new suit is made of air.

Hey, if you're not going to play in the game, you have no place to ruin it for others. End of story.

Now, said asshole did have a point: you can have a lot more complexity, history and possibility with a city that's literally older than dirt (London, Boston, Mexico City) as opposed to towns that have been inhabited for only two to three centuries, if that. I like to think that I made a good history for Las Vegas' Shadowlands with what I had, but if I'd had another 50 - 100 years in there I think it could have been just that much better.

On the other hand... maybe you don't have the time, the energy or the desire to actually present a Necropolis that is older than dirt in something approaching a complete fashion. I was going to consider having done a Shadowlands history for London to be a crowning glory in my ST's cap, but in retrospect I think it was just as well things went the way they did, there. The project might have killed me.

Let us also mention that increased complexity, history and possibility do not always a memorable game make. Too much complexity turns your players heads to porridge, too much history makes it easy to forget things. And while you would like to think there could never be too much possibility...?

Well, yes, I've seen it, and it leaves some players almost paradoxically stuck for ideas. That's because there's too darn many choices to make - especially when you have an open-ended game like Wraith - and presenting some players with way too many choices can overload them.

So I'd say to be really careful as to where you're going to base your Necropolis: pick someplace interesting, but don't bite off more than you can comfortably chew.

And speaking of experience in these matters, perhaps it would be good to give those with none the benefit of that experience? How much is too much, in your estimation?

*grumbles* Well... a good rule of thumb is to come up with a combined Skinlands/Shadowlands history that might take your average player no longer than fifteen minutes to read, but don't make it so short that it takes a minute or less. This way, they don't feel like they're getting shortchanged, or have too many gaps that need filling, but they don't have flashbacks to their Freshman-year History of Western Civilization class, either. : )

Not that you dared to take it in the first place...

Yeah - mostly because you were up there, teaching it, from what I heard.

That is taking things a bit too far, I think-

Right, and speaking of taking things too far: if you ever have to pick between underdoing it and overdoing it... well, the lazy boy in me says underdo it - since you have nowhere to go from there but up, and your players can help you fill in the gaps with what their characters do. Such are the virtues of doing more with less.

On the other hand, if you overdo it, you may risk burnout and a lack of appreciation if the game falls apart for other reasons. But when you are done you will have something truly amazing on your hands. Such are the wages of letting your talents be recognized.

And then we have the matter of picking a venue appropriate to the Theme and Mood one is trying to present-

Oh, fuck... it's art school talk time.

Come now, good sir. This is important, and I know that, deep down, you agree.


Certain cities readily lend themselves to certain stories, whereas other cities might not. Consider how a Chronicle based around old, entrenched decay and dark, ancient secrets might feel if it were placed in... say... Denver.

Jello Biafra grew up in Denver, by the way.

*ahem* Now, it may work, and I would be the last person to dissuade you from trying. But Denver? That does sound more than a little incongruous to such a theme. One would think more of someplace teeming with ancient, decaying buildings and a legacy that stretches back for time out of mind. Someplace like Salem, or Providence. Venice? New York, perhaps? Or perhaps we could even consider-

"LON-don calling..."

Ah, yes. London, indeed. And if you wished, conversely, to tell a story of fast life, faster death and how great things come from such trivial pursuits, then you could consider a much younger city-

And there's your ageism showing, again. Fast life and fast death? That's Paris, man. You cannot tell me that's not Paris in a nutshell.


Oh, that's right. You hate Paris. What about Milan, for that matter?

Well... now that you mention it, yes. I suppose one could do such a Chronicle in Milan. But I was thinking more of recently-settled places, such as Los Angeles-

Which has a really impressive history all its own, and was well-established before the movie industry turned it into Hollywood.

Quite true. And that might serve well for a story of old versus new? The ancient regime seeing its proud, Spanish city turn into a modern-day Sodom, with the new wraiths fighting to make the environs more like what they were accustomed to...?

Hey, I'd play in that.

Exactly my point, dear boy. We are not only searching for interesting history, here, but tantalizing stories to accompany them and make them come alive... as it were.

So which comes first, then? The story or the stage?

Well... we do seem to have placed things right around from how I prefer them. For myself, the story to tell comes first, and then I can select an appropriate venue given the parameters we've already discussed.

And I'm thinking more about making the most of your get-up-and-go while you've got it, so I'd say pick a stage and then decide what kind of story you want to tell from there. Every picture tells a story, if you look at it long enough.

There is also something to be said for making a city out of whole cloth.

Yep! The MSU option - Make Shit Up. No one can ever accuse you of doing poor research if you made it all up.

*Ahem* Yes... well, I think I should mention that this is also labor-intensive, as you are creating facts, rather than researching them and using them for your Chronicle. On the other hand, it grants total freedom... so long as you are not putting 13th century castles in caves overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Ha! I remember that one.

So do I, hence my allusion to it.

Er... yeah. *cough* Just remember not to take too many liberties when exercising MSU. The more realistic your imaginary city is, the better.

H.P. Lovecraft was a master of this. Consider his treatment of Arkham, Kingsport, Dunwich or Innsmouth. Were those not fully-realized creations? They had enough of a realistic framework to anchor the reader, so that when amazing and grotesque things happened, the shock was much more magnified for the contrast.

Come to think of it, Stephen King isn't half-bad either. Anyone up for Necropolis: Derry?

Um... no, I think I shall pass on that one, friend.

Clive Barker's got a good thing going in his Great and Secret Show series, too.

Agreed, but I think we are digressing, somewhat.

Which probably means we should wrap it up for this month. Bottom line: make your choice of city fit both your time and energy levels, as well as the story you want to tell. And if all else fails just make it all up.

But be careful, as it may all come true, anyway.


You stole that.

Yes, I did : )

Table of Contents