It’s funny. I wrote this one on Monday, then on Friday I was invited to a Vampire: The Requiem one-shot. We found ourselves gathered around a very particular campfire.

This was the “Reap the Whirlwind” introductory adventure, and we were a bunch of neonate kindred. We were also a bunch of neonate players.

I hadn’t touched Vampire since my personal Masquerade ended back in college. My fellow vamps hadn’t touched much of anything. I believe there was some D&D experience scattered among the group, but they were were equally unfamiliar with Roll20 and dice pool systems. It was the dramaturgy that really struck me though.

If you’re not familiar with “Reap the Whirlwind,” it’s a classic World of Darkness intro. You wake up in a dark New Orleans alley, freshly vamped and without context beyond a gnawing, inexplicable hunger. After the inevitable you-must-slake-your-thirst-upon-the-blood-of-the-innocent scene, you’re shunted through a series of NPCs before landing in front of the local Prince.

“Confess your sins to me,” he says, because of course he does. “Everything that has happened between your Embrace and this moment.”

In context, it’s a lovely bit of thematic storytelling. The PCs in “Whirlwind” have been vamped by parties unknown, and this Lancea et Prince is doing detective work, trying in his own way to find out whodunit.

Knowing my own tendency to diva things up, I waited for the others to make their confessions.

“I tell him everything,” says dude the first. That was it.

After the awkward who-wants-to-go-next pause, dude the second says, “Ditto.”

“Where’s my van?” says dude the third, because he’d lost his car and because the Prince had “promised to answer all our questions.” It was a fine bit of comedy, but by the time the Prince had finished telepathically extracting van-dude’s confession, I was feeling more than a little empathetic with Wizard. I mean, here was this golden opportunity for everyone to get a spotlight moment. To put their own spin on events. Explain their motivation. Establish character. I know that improv acting isn’t for everyone, but this is friggin’ Vampire! The game made out of goth drama and self-important bluster.

“And what of you?” says the Prince to my bewildered college co-ed. “What sins can you confess?”

My pregen character sheet informed me that I was motivated by vengeance and self-centered survival. I decided to go with that. “It’s against the rules, what happened to us. Isn’t it? We weren’t supposed to become this. Somebody out there did it to us. They’re the ones who made me… I can still taste that poor boy’s blood. It’s why I didn’t desert y’all,” I said, turning to the others. “When I went back to get my bag in the alley. I thought about high-tailing it. Calling my mama. Going back home to the University of Knoxville, where I apparently developed my very-southern-but-weirdly-inconsistent accent. But knowing the monster that made me into this is still out there, laughin’ at me behind my back… I want them dead. I’ll confess whatever you like. Just let me be the one that finds ’em.”

It wasn’t anything profound, but it was my best stab at injecting theatricality into the scene. Minds were not blown. I did not win an Oscar. I doubt that Ranger is out there somewhere vowing to change her silent-protagonist ways in deference to my example. But it did serve as a powerful reminder to me.

People game for different reasons. There are varying comfort levels with RP and voice acting and amateur theater around the gaming table. The guys I played with this weekend were a great bunch of dudes, and I’ll happily go back for part two of the one-shot. But I do think there’s value to be had in grabbing those moments when they’re offered. The characters in these stories grow not just from the actions we take in-game, but the things we say in-character. That’s a useful tool, even if it’s one we all come to in our own way and in our time.

So what do you say, Handbook-World? What makes a good “campfire scene?” When the narrative calls upon you to tell the table what’s in your character’s head, do you seize the moment? Play it close to the vest? Or do you like to snark at the self-important NPCs trying to wrest a confession from your character sheet? Whatever your story, let’s hear all about it down in the comments!

Edit: My GM friend has informed me that we were running the first chapter of “Danse De La Mort” converted to 2e, not “Reap the Whirlwind.”


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