Sunday, February 18, 2007

Resources and Bibliography

Gaming Resources

Antagonists, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Armory, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Ars Magica, Atlas Games, 2004.
Ascension, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Belial's Brood, White Wolf Publishing, 2007.
Bloodlines: The Hidden, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Bloodlines: The Legendary, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Call of Cthulhu d20, Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
Carthians, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Children of the Inquisition, White Wolf Publishing, 1992.
Circle of the Crone, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
City of the Damned: New Orleans, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Changeling: The Lost, Wizards of the Coast, 2007.
Constantinople by Night, White Wolf Publishing, 1996.
Coteries, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Dark Colony, White Wolf Publishing, 1993.
Demon: The Fallen, White Wolf Publishing, 2002.
Deus Ex Machina, Idéojeux (Asmodée/Siroz Productions), 1995.
Encyclopaedia Vampirica, White Wolf Publishing, 2002.
Kindred Most Wanted, White Wolf Publishing, 1994.
Gehenna, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Ghouls, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Invictus, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom, White Wolf Publishing, 2003
Lair of the Hidden, White Wolf Publishing, 2003.
Lancea Sanctum, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Mage: The Awakening, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Magnum Opus, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Monte Cook's World of Darkness, White Wolf Publishing, 2007.
Montreal by Night, White Wolf Publishing, 1997.
Mythologies, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Nephilim, First and Second Editions, Multisim Editions, 1992 et 1996.
Ordo Dracul, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
Pandora's Book, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Player's Guide to the Sabbat, The, White Wolf Publishing, 1992.
Promethean: The Created, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire, Malhavoc Press, 2006.
Red Sign, The, White Wolf Publishing, 2003.
Rites of the Dragon, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Saturnine Night, White Wolf Publishing, 2007.
Sciences Occultes : la Kabbale, Les, Multisim Editions, 1995.
Scales, Asmodée Editions (Siroz Productions), 1994.
Sciences Occultes : l'Alchimie, Les, Multisim Editions, 1995.
Strange Alchemies, White Wolf Publishing, 2006.
Time of Judgment, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Tome of Magic: Pact, Shadow and True Name Magic, Wizards of the Coast, 2006.
Vampire: The Requiem, White Wolf Publishing, 2004.
Werewolf: The Forsaken, White Wolf Publishing, 2005.
World of Darkness, Second Edition, White Wolf Publishing, 1996.
World of Darkness (core rules), White Wolf Publishing, 2004.

General Bibliography

Anubis Gates, The, Tim Powers, 1983.
Cathédrale de Chartres Avant Fulbert, La, by Roger Joly, Editions Houvet - Chartres, 1999.
Chartres Cathedral, by Malcolm Miller with photographs from Sonia Halliday and Laura Lushington, Jarrold Publishing, 2004.
Commentarii de Bello Gallico, or Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar, from 57 to 52 BC.
Cycle du Graal, Le, First and Second volumes, by Jean Markale, Pygmalion, 2000.
Dante's Divine Comedy: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, with original illustrations of Gustave Doré, translated from Italian to English by Henry W. Longfellow, Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2006.
Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1897.
Grande Epopée des Celtes, La, volumes 1 to 5, Jean Markale, Pygmalion, 1997 - 1999.
Egyptian Book of the Dead, The, E.A. Wallis Budge, Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 1967.
Exploring Paris, Sixth Edition, Fiona Dunlop, Fodor's tourist guides, 2005.
Fleurs du Mal, Les, Charles Baudelaire, 1857.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818.
Historíai, or The Inquiry, Herodotus, around 450 BC.
Historiquement Correct, Jean Sévillia, Perrin, 2003.
In the Name of Rome: the men who won the Roman Empire, Adrian Goldsworthy, 2003.
Myths and Legends: Egypt, Lewis Spence, 1985.
Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo, 1831 (aka The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Nom de la Rose, Le, Umberto Eco, 1980.
Pendule de Foucault, Le, Umberto Eco, 1988.
Poésies Complètes, François Villon -Livre de Poche, 1991.
See It Paris, Second Edition, another of Fodor's tourist guides, 2006.
Stello, Alfred de Vigny, 1832.

Movies and Television

Beauty and the Beast, TV series created by Ron Koslow, 1987.
Black Rain, Ridley Scott, 1989.
Bram Stoker's Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola, 1992.
Excalibur, John Boorman, 1981.
Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster, 1931.
Godfather, The, Francis Ford Coppola, 1972.
Hellboy, Guillermo del Toro, 2004.
I, Claudius, BBC TV series, 1976.
Italian Job, The, Peter Collinson, 1969.
Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Neil Jordan, 1994.
Name of the Rose, The, Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1986.
Ninth Gate, The, Roman Polanski, 1999.
Nosferatu The Vampyre, Werner Herzog, 1979.
Power of Myth, The, interviews between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, 1988.
Rome, TV series from HBO, since 2005.
Serenity, Joss Whedon, 2005.
Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki, 2001.


- Highway to Hell.
Brel (Jacques) - Public Recording at the Olympia, 1964.
Beethoven - Symphonies #3, 5, 6 et 7, directed by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
Black Sabbath - Cross Purposes.
Movie Soundtracks
  • Interview with the Vampire
  • The Name of the Rose
  • The Ninth Gate
Fredericks, Goldman, Jones - Rouge.
Guns n' Roses - Use Your Illusion, vol. 2.
Iron Maiden - Live after Death.
Led Zeppelin - No Quarter.
Loreena McKennitt - The Book of Secrets.
Manowar - Into Glory Ride, Hail to England.
Metallica - Ride the Lightning.
Motörhead - Bastards.
Mozart - Requiem, Don Giovanni, directed by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
Muse - Absolution.
Pink Floyd - Relics, Meddle, Wish You Were Here, Division Bell.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Designing Paris by Night - Part 2

I have run numerous games in the past. Not only D&D or medieval role-playing games, but also numerous RPGs using modern occultism or fantasy as their backgrounds. This alone provided me with multiple references and ideas to use in this new version of Paris by Night.

But these weren't the only influences I had at my disposition. I always was passionate about history, particularly ancient and medieval. I am an avid reader of anything related to myths and legends, and love weird conspiracy theories based so-called "occult" and "esoteric" sources: Knights Templar, the Fall of Montségur, the Holy Grail... you name it. I am also interested in world politics, old and new, cultures and religions, and a whole host of various topics which would fuel my imaginary ventures into a supernatural Paris the players of the game would enjoy.

These influences formed the corpus of influences where I would search for ideas to twist and interpret in the context of a World of Darkness (WoD) version of the City of Lights, but they weren't the main components I would use to build the game itself.

The Old Paris by Night (PbN)

My previous interpretation of a Paris by Night was heavily influenced by the games it used as its main frame: Vampire: The Masquerade and the other games of the old World of Darkness. Many elements of this old version were liked by the players of the game. I wouldn't need to change them.

Of course, I would have to change some elements, to reorganize them into a more coherent whole, as so many things were added somewhat erratically during the eight years the Chronicle ran, but some significant chunks of the old background I created so many years ago would remain unchanged. Even some characters directly taken from the old WoD sourcebooks would be kept: I had no choice, since some of the players of the new Paris would be searching for correlations and similitudes, basically a "safety zone" that would make them feel like there were "coming back home".

So I kept iconic characters such as François Villon, Madame Guil or Elaine de Calinot, even if their roles in the Requiem for Paris by Night would be largely revisited.

I also kept many of my own creations which went into the design of the old Paris by Night: Quasimodo, Maximilien Robespierre, the competition between the Toreador and Ventrue clans of Paris (now the Daeva and Ventrue of the Invictus, respectively) would remain present in the base frame of the new Paris by Night. "If it ain't broken, don't fix it," as they say.

The background of the Mage and Werewolf sides of the old Paris by Night would experience a revision, however. For Mages, I had some very particular ideas. For Werewolves, whose overall background and involvement in the old Paris by Night remained sketchy at best, I didn't know what to expect before reading their dedicated game for the new WoD.

As a matter of fact, after thinking a while about the old components of the old PbN, I realized would have to understand the whole new line of World of Darkness games and the way they meshed together to know exactly how I would use them in the new version I was preparing myself to design.

A New World of Darkness (nWoD)

My first experience with the nWoD would be through Promethean: The Created. Instantly, I loved what I was reading. This book alone decided me to use a huge chunk of myths and legends of the Occult, and particularly Alchemical lore and "history", as a component of the new PbN.

I also knew, as soon as we started talking about a new incarnation of PbN on Les Petits Potes, that I would have to carefully read Vampire: The Requiem (VtR) and make vampires the "first supernatural citizens" of the City of Lights. This just made sense: most players would want to create vampire characters, therefore the setting would have to address the Paris of the Damned first and foremost. When I read VtR the first time, I instantly liked the modifications the designers brought to the old incarnations of the game: no more generation, no more Gehenna, no single explanation of the origin of Vampires, less focus on monolithic clans and families of the Damned... this was all to my liking. I thus decided to use the game as it stands even if I would obviously add my own bloodlines and legends to the background of the game. No big deal.

Werewolf: The Forsaken solved all the trouble I had using these supernatural creatures in the Parisian context. Gone was the presence of the Wyrm, and gone too was the crusades of the shape-changers against the vampires. This allowed me to design alliances and feuds between vampires and werewolves, which decided me to make them part of the game much more than they were in the old Paris by Night.

Mage: The Awakening is certainly the game I liked the most from the get-go, but also the one with a background which needed to be modified the most. I had no trouble with the rules, and huge parts of its background were really flavorful, but the five Orders (or political organizations of mages, if you will) described in the main rulebook were completely disappointing: these were unflavorful, clichéd templates of the "fighters", the "anarchist/innovators", the "assassins/enforcers", the "lorekeepers" and "politic elitists" (respectively the Adamantine Arrow, the Free Council, the Guardians of the Veil, the Mysterium and the Silver Ladder). No basis in history or legends, really an unnecessary repetition of the political concepts already exploited in the other games of the new WoD, and frankly, none of the appeal of the Orwellian Mage: The Ascension, previous incarnation of the game.

The game's background had some tremendous potential, most notably concerning the origins of Mages in the World of Darkness, but its treatment in the alternative "now" it proposed was truly letting me down. Luckily enough, its premises were close enough to another role-playing game of modern fantasy which had been a long-time favorite and that I never had the chance of running until that point: Nephilim, the French-speaking RPG of "modern occult" were you play elemental spirits reincarnating in mortal bodies through the ages.

There, the organizations of Nephilim were based on the Major and Minor Arcana of the Tarot. This fitted nicely the tones of Mage. "What if I fused Mage and Nephilim into one single game?" I asked to myself. I would have the benefits of a tremendous background with tons of historical references and flavoful NPCs, and I would have the frame of Mage's rules to work with. I never had tried that kind of fusion of two different published RPGs before: that would be fun to attempt!

To conclude on the WoD games, I also decided to leave some room for the future games of the World of Darkness series, like the upcoming Changeling, which would certainly be interesting to add to the sauce. There's also a mysterious book entitled "Monte Cook's World of Darkness" scheduled for some time late in 2007. To this date, I am not sure what it would contain. A d20 adaptation of the WoD? That seems unlikely. A personal take on the components of the WoD rearranged into a new whole? That's much more likely. Whatever it is, it sure is on my list of future references for Paris by Night, given my long-time support of Monte Cook's designs and Malhavoc Press' products.

I thus had all my gaming components right then and there. All that remained to do was to organize all my thoughts and start writing a background. Easier said than done, obviously: that's what I'm working on right now.


There's one last component of the PbN design I have to discuss: this is Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire.

This is honestly the best role-playing city book that's ever been published. To summarize its contents, it presents a fantasy city named Ptolus and the world surrounding it, named Praemal, to use for one or several Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. It presents the world, its inhabitants and main nations, the city of Ptolus itself, with its various organizations, districts and underground regions, presents its customs, laws, and more while providing gazillions of adventure ideas and advice in the meantime. It's also the best organization of an RPG sourcebook I've ever seen: tons of cross-references in the margins, colors on the side of the pages to find a section quickly, dozens of maps, embedded bookmarks, that's just just amazing.

The reason I am mentioning Ptolus here is twofold: one, it allowed me to understand better what may possibly have been right and wrong in my earlier design of the old Paris by Night. Two, it provides great insights on the way I could organize my work into a coherent and usable whole, since I knew that, like the old PbN, the new one would soon include hundreds of pages of notes and descriptions of various aspects of the Chronicle.

I'm not planning on taking stuff from Ptolus to use it in Paris by Night: outside of the mere inspiration for maybe this NPC or this faction, the two cities are so different in feel and aim that this wouldn't do. However, the types of concepts and the way they work out together, as well as the physical organization of the whole thing, will certainly influence my work on this new Paris by Night.

As a matter of fact, besides this PbN game that's just restarting, I've been running a Ptolus game for some time now with my friends here in British Columbia. You can read more about our Ptolus game, how it is played, my thoughts about it, as well as the summaries of the various game sessions and events occurring in the game, in the Praemal Tales, its dedicated blog.

Now you have it: all the main components which help me design and run this new Paris by Night. Next time, I'm going to list all the books, movies, websites and more which became major inspirations of this ongoing design. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Designing Paris by Night - Part 1

The Past

Once upon a time, there was a game entitled Vampire: The Masquerade (VtM for short). As soon as it became available in 1991 it became a huge phenomenon in the little world of tabletop role-playing games.

The French translation of VtM was released in January 1992, and I obtained a copy soon after purchasing its "brother", Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Both games were taking place in the same Gothic but modern universe, the World of Darkness. After playing a few exploratory games I decided to launch a Chronicle (or succession of adventures taking place in the same setting and using the same characters from one adventure to the next). At first, I chose Los Angeles as the setting of our Chronicle, but after some events that occurred in the game itself, the players' characters migrated to Paris.

Eager to perfect the design of a "City by Night", I started designing Paris using various influences found in games, movies and various readings I had at the time. Soon, Paris by Night became for me and my friends our game setting of choice. We would play vampires and other Parisian creatures of the night every week-end nights for years, making our characters and the setting evolve as time went on.

After of few years of gaming using Paris by Night, it had become a monster of more than 120 fully stated Non-Player Characters, dozens of real life places adapted to the specifics of the World of Darkness, as well as dozens of factions of vampires, werewolves, mages, ghosts, changelings, mummies and mortals, to just mention a few, warring against each other endlessly for control of the City of Lights. It was completely independent from the later publication of Le Monde des Ténèbres : France in 1997 by Ludis.

Paris by Night also was the first of a network of "cities by night" run by some of my fellow game masters which together formed "our" World of Darkness with its own background and specificities compared to the "official" White Wolf publications. Such cities included in no particular order London, Rome, Amsterdam, Venice, Florence and more.

I think I ran games using Paris by Night for nearly eight years, from 1992 to the year 2000. It was a long, rich Chronicle bringing back many fond memories to my mind, but at the same time, by the dawn of the new Millennium I needed a change. I put down my World of Darkness rulebooks to prefer games with a more heroic appeal, such as Dungeons & Dragons and RuneQuest, during the following years.

The Present

After running D&D, d20 and other Fantasy games for a while, I discovered Promethean: The Created, one of the games published for the "new" World of Darkness which released in 2004. I liked the game a lot, so much in fact that I decided to purchase all the other games as well.

Around Christmas of 2006, which is to say, around the same time I was reading Promethean, some of my old friends who played the Old World of Darkness with me more than ten years earlier showed up on the French-speaking Les Petits Potes message boards I visit regularly. There, we started to remember the good old times, and soon the idea of launching a new campaign online popped up in the conversation.

Not really believing in coincidences, I proposed to run a new version of Paris by Night using the games of the new World of Darkness I just acquired. This would allow us to come back to "ye olde ways" while yet enjoying something slightly different (and, hopefully, better). Once the proposition was made, other players new to role-playing games showed an interest in playing in Paris by Night. We started to organize a new section of the message boards to host the game, which would be played in a mode known as "play-by-post", the interaction between the characters consisting of exchanges of written posts on the message boards themselves.

These boards are now up and running. Most of the characters have been created, and I am deep into the design of this new version of Paris by Night. The design process and components I use to build this new Paris by Night will be discussed in our Part 2.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What is Paris by Night?

"Paris by Night" is the name of a modern, yet fictional, role-playing game setting. There, the adventures of supernatural creatures controlled by the players of the game unfold. This is a Paris similar to the real-life city in many ways: its geographical location is the same, its political and topographical organizations are the same. On the mortals' side of the veil, this is the same Paris.

There is another side to this Paris, though. A side that stirs in the shadows and preys on all the life it can consume.

Beyond the veil, supernatural creatures are struggling for the control of the City of Lights. They may be vampires, werewolves, mages or even creatures yet unknown to mortals. They all share an interest in Paris, whether it is political, occult or personal in nature, and all understand the necessity to stay away from the scrutiny of the mundane world.

The struggle itself is complex, its history including many actors, many twists and turns, most of which remain mysterious to the very players of this deadly game. For as long as mortals inhabited the area there were monsters reaching from the shadows and competing for control. This is what the struggle is truly about: control. Control of the mortal population, control of Paris' many resources, control over each and everyone's right to exist.

This, after all, is a World of Darkness. In this world, if mortals believe legends and myths to be fairy tales, a selected few know these tales relate hidden truths and forlorn mysteries which could be discovered by the masses were it not for the lies and disinformation the monsters stirring from the shadows have been spreading all along.

Now is the time to write a new chapter in this eternal struggle.

Let us follow the steps of a few creatures of the night. You will serve as a witness to many events, some of them glorious, some of them horrific in nature, which will all serve a greater design in showing what is so alien to us and therefore so alike within the hearts of these modern monsters.

If Paris truly is the City of Lights, then certainly she cannot exist without deep shadows as well.

Come now. Let us hear the Ballade of the Hanged. How the monsters came to Paris and became major actors in its endless cycle of bloody strifes and wondrous revelations. This is a night to remember, my friend. If you want to step away, you can still do so without shame, but if you want your eyes to open, realize that once the veil is lifted, there is no come back.

Welcome to Paris by Night.

For more information, please consult the following pages hosted by White Wolf Online:
What is a role-playing game?
What's all this vampire stuff?
What about these werewolves?
A World of Darkness?