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?