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Baltimore By Night


City of Shadows

Introduction

Here is a basic setting for a Vampire: the Masquerade campaign, using published sourcebooks as a guide. This setting was an outgrowth of Dee's 1812 campaign (published in MOTiVE 34). After the game died in modern-day Washington, I said I wanted to keep playing James, my Ventrue. Because of James' shipping interest we decided to try something in nearby Baltimore. Now the tables are turned, and I do the lions' share of GMing in this setting.

You may ask what kind of geek I am to take so much time and effort to make up a ton of characters that I won't use all that much. Well, it's like this: I made a list of names of a number of characters which I thought might be interesting. Well, as PCs encounter them, I found it necessary to put a little flesh on their bones. It was suggested that, since I put so much work into it, I should it on the web.

By necessity, most of the material here relates to the Prince, since for the most part he has been the center of the game. Because this supplement is heavy on characters and light on scenery, it can be modified to suit a number of locations. If you want to use it as Baltimore, pick up a guidebook (many Washington DC guidebooks contain a section on Baltimore). Use the whole thing, or pull out individual characters for your own setting. And let me know what you think! Tell me what you like. Tell me if you think a character needs work, doesn't make sense or is just plain stupid.

Background

James Musgrave, who in 19th century London was a shipping tycoon, made it clear that he didn't want to deal with the hypercompetitive political system of modern-day D.C. Rather, he set his sights on the enormous shipping center of Baltimore. The up side: the city didn't have a Prince. The downside: the city had an Archbishop instead. So, James spent some time making connections in Washington and European Kindred, promising them each a piece of the new city as soon as it was cleared of Sabbat influence. The lynchpin of the invasion was Gretchen Verhoven, a 200 year old Lasombra. She was a deep cover operative for the Camarilla, posing as Sabbat for several years. As a neonate, she was saved and then adopted by James, then lieutenant to the Prince of London. She knew a great deal about the number of Sabbat packs and their locations in Baltimore. A thoroughly-planned and well-executed raid at dusk annihilated the Sabbat presence in Baltimore before moonrise, with comparatively light casualties on the Camarilla's part.

Organization

The Kindred with the most authority is the prince, who acts as head of state in his domain. Prince James maintains a council of advisors (called the primogen council), the members of which are generally fixed. The head of each clan in the city has a seat on this cabinet, and others may sit on the council at the prince's discretion. Meetings are generally biweekly, and more often as circumstances warrant. As is generally the case, primogen meetings are not just for show; the prince must listen to these powerful Kindred, since he rules at their sufferance.

James has several officers who uphold his judgments. Gretchen Verhoven, the prince's adopted childe and a Lasombra, stands at his right hand as chief lieutenant. His chief bodyguard, interrogator, and executioner, Orlenda Romanova, is also a Lasombra. James also created an elite group that acts as a secret service/military force for the city, known as the Order of the Crimson Lion (OCL) and modeled somewhat after the knightly orders of the middle ages.

Each clan has a designated head, usually the eldest member. Clan organization varies widely, from the Ventrue's regular board meetings and the Toreador's frequent parties, to the very rare gatherings of the Gangrel. While clan affiliation is important, interclan cooperation is not uncommon.

Baltimore is not as intrigue-ridden as you might expect. There are several reasons for this:

1. The Cainite population is not especially high for a city of this size - an ambitious Kindred is less likely to step on others' toes.

2. The city's new inhabitants are still learning their way around. They haven't grown into their spheres of influence,as it were; therefore, they haven't had time to get bored.

3. James and his subordinates cultivate a siege mentality; they have good reason, surrounded as they are by Sabbat territory (they don't count Washington as friendly). Keeping the populace's attention focused outward cuts down on internal squabbles and plots.

Look at it this way: Baltimore is a city of third-childer, neonates and minor players who had no hope of attaining power anytime soon, but who took a major risk and became knights, primogen, and Kindred of influence. The ever-present threat from the Sabbat makes success all the sweeter. These youngsters have gotten hold of serious power, and they're tripping. Eventually, the honeymoon will be over, they'll settle down and begin plotting.

Entering the City

The prince, while quite evenhanded and fair in most things, assumes a siege mentality when it comes to visiting Kindred. The best way for a Kindred to make a favorable impression is announce herself, preferably well in advance of actual arrival. If a visitor knows no one in the city but knows what to look for, it isn't that hard to find another Kindred to direct her to the prince. Chances are fair that sooner or later a local Kindred will notice her, and confront or report her (the Crimson Lion is particularly adept at detecting strangers). The stranger is then brought before the prince to be formally introduced.

The prince has a background check done on the visitor. This may include accessing financial and real estate records, contacting "references," and so on. A letter in introduction from a Cainite of some status (another prince, an ally of James, etc.) will make things somewhat easier.

The part of the process which many Kindred find objectionable is the formal questioning. This process usually lasts no more than 10 minutes. James Dominates the visitor before at least three witnesses, and asks a series of questions (along the lines of "have you ever been a member of, or had sympathetic dealing with, the sect known as the Sabbat, or members of that sect?" Other questions are meant to uncover any threats to the stability of Kine or Kindred society, or to the leadership thereof). The witnesses monitor the subject with Auspex. Should he fail the test, the visitor will be detained for questioning by the prince and his interrogators. James is careful to explain the procedure exactly before administering the test. Should the guest refuse, he may be detained or expelled as the prince sees fit. This exercise may seem draconian, but at least one Sabbat spy was discovered through this process.

James is careful not pry about the business interests or intrigues the visitor may be involved in; once his security concerns are satisfied, it's no longer his business. After the guest passes the test, the Prince reminds him of the Traditions, and officially welcomes him to the city. He may limit the length of the visitor's stay. The guest is then given over to his clan's leader, who will pass along pertinent information about the city, such as feeding areas and elysiums.

A Note on the Traditions

The premier laws of the Camarilla Kindred, the Six Traditions, are in force at all times. Each prince has his own biases, giving some latitude for interpretation on some points while treating others as carved in stone. Here is James' general view of these ancient laws.

#1: The Masquerade

Because of the presence of Sabbat, hunters, mages, and lupines in and around the city, the need for secrecy is obvious. Minor breaches of the Masquerade (a Lasombra entering a pub with a large mirror behind the bar, for example) result in a light reprimand; more serious offences (flagrant use of Disciplines, or climbing out of an obviously fatal car crash in front of a crowd) will earn more serious punishments. Learning the skill Masquerade is strongly encouraged.

#2: Domain

As might be expected, the prince claims the greater Baltimore area as his domain. He also claims authority over all areas inside this territory, including the havens of other Kindred. Of course, he is careful not to abuse this power, and others allow him to claim whatever he likes. Should a threat present itself, the Kindred will gladly support this draconian invasion of privacy so long as it's not their own havens being violated. While a few Kindred have been granted official "feeding areas" by the Prince, and others have unofficial territories, the prince has not ceded any of his lands to others. However, several (especially members of the Crimson Lion) have areas of operation which they guard. Also, since vampires are creatures of habit, they are aware of others' "haunts" and so can avoid trodding each others toes.

#3: Progeny

Prince Musgrave reserves the right to control the creation of progeny in his domain, and those who create without his consent face almost certain destruction. The prince also claims ghoul creation to be his jurisdiction, although he is both more lenient in disciplining transgressions and freer with permission.


#4: Accounting

Bound in duty and tradition, the Ventrue prince advocates the responsibility of the sire for the childe. Traditions 3 and 4 are almost inseparable in James' mind.

#5: Hospitality

Presenting oneself to the prince is mandatory. Should the OCL discover an unpresented vampire, the visitor will have a number of difficult questions to answer. In his search for spies, this is one breach of etiquette James does not tolerate.

#6: Destruction

While Prince Musgrave has called Hunts down upon Kindred, he has been loathe to call a full-fledged Blood Hunt. He feels that to promise such easy gain of power would may the young agitate for its more frequent use. Furthermore, the husk of a diablerized bishop can provide very little intelligence to an interrogator.

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All original material 1999-2001 Forrest B. Marchinton.  All rights reserved.

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