Lessons from history
My last post got me thinking about using sites of real-life coolness as gaming inspiration.
I’ve done this in the past (a few times, but I am just going to write about one today).
Once upon a time, I lived in Washington, D.C. (in the Dupont Circle area, for those of you who know D.C.). I ran a large and fairly successful Vampire LARP for a bit (apparently, it is still around…).
While I was running that game, the players of the Nosferatu clan came to me and told me that they wanted to explore Glen Echo, the site of an abandoned amusement park where they’d heard there was some underground coolness.
So I did my homework. It turns out that Glen Echo had been founded by a couple of brothers who had made their fortune by inventing a type of mechanical eggbeater. They began by building castles there as a fancy development. The site was plagued by fire and malaria. The Baltzley brothers then set up Glen Echo as a Chautauqua Institute. There was again sickness that was, maybe, malaria.
So. I had a couple of crazy inventors who wanted to develop a site near D.C. I had disease-related problems that plagued them over a number of years in that site, forcing them to repeatedly abandon their plans.
Translating this into the World of Darkness was easy. The Baltzley’s were Sons of Ether – mad-scientist-mages who were (at that point in history) loosely tied to the Technocracy. This explained their interest in Chautauqua. They wanted to build outside of D.C. – probably taking advantage of a natural node. The Ratkin (wererats) of the area (D.C.=city+swamp=ratkin territory) were that node’s defenders and engaged in bio-warfare (as is their wont).
So, I filled the underground area of Glen Echo up with proto-art deco architecture, mostly-broken automata, pneumatic tubes, humanoid-rat-skeletons, and workshops. The players ate it up.
Sweet! I do that sort of thing all the time. My Buffy game is set in Cleveland, the only place outside Sunnydale canonically known to have a Hellmouth. I grew up near there and have done a lot of research since.
I made a whimsical decision about the placement of the Hellmouth – under the Terminal Tower, both for the name and for the importance of the building as a landmark and symbol of the city. Researching the history of the building essentially gave me my Big Bads and some nifty details to play with.