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@Icon57 Thanks! Just some clarifications on the lore: does the sun weaken vampires, or does it immediately burn them? Are familiars enslaved in a way or serving their masters out of their own conscience?


Good questions!

Re: familiars, I think they're a good way to differentiate between the houses. Like, Catherine Cash is very much a partner in Dutch's operation. But there's no reason to think that other familiars in House Scion are so privileged, and other houses might see familiars more like chattel or cannon fodder than employees or devotees. So the answer to that question is "yes." Whatever makes sense for your house and the characters you're playing.

As for sunlight, I really like the limitations that come from sunlight being deadly. But if there's a cool narrative reason for something different, or some combination of consequences to sunlight exposure, I'm all ears!
This is excellent! @BingTheWing, I especially like the idea that they're slipping away from the Loop as the story begins. I suspect, given House Rahaim's interest in America and the arms trade, that soon enough we'll be seeing interactions between Rahaim's people and the team of Dutch, Normand, and Cash who were winging their way to America in the introductory post.

Welcome aboard!
Bumping to say that I've gone ahead to start telling this story and I encourage others to jump in:
https://www.roleplayerguild.com/topics/176749-the-loop-and-the-lariat-dark-urban-fantasy

Looking forward to people checking it out!
House Scion
Somewhere over the North Atlantic


The flight from Heathrow to New York was a little over eight hours long, and Mr. Dutch had arranged it so that as much of those eight hours as possible would be in sunshine.

Part of it was so that his familiar, Catherine, would be more comfortable and alert and able to better work with him on their current task. Part of it was so that his colleague Yolanthe Normand, less able than he to avoid the torpor during the day, would be less inclined to discuss the job. She was a step or two ahead of him, as always, and he needed the time to brief with Catherine prior to the inevitable pregaming that would happen between he and Yolanthe if he was going to keep up.

Part of it was that, even after two hundred years, he missed the sun and the ocean and the way they looked together.

The windows of the Creighton’s Learjet had been treated with UV filters for just such a purpose and staffed with trusted familiars who knew how to accommodate their patrons’ needs while boarding and deboarding during daylight hours, and their general sluggishness while in flight.
Yolanthe Normand had indeed retired to the rear of the plane to rest, while Catherine prepared the briefing in the small four-seater dining and office area. She watched out of the corner of her eye as Mr. Dutch hung up his jacket and undid his collar and cuffs. He wore an ivory dress shirt and the vest from his three-piece blue suit, and he rolled up his sleeves as he prepared a cup of coffee. He was lucky. Not all of his kind retained their sense of taste for food. Somehow (he liked to say through sheer force of will) he’d kept his, and in fact the heightened senses that came with the Embrace actually augmented his appreciation for food. It did not help the questionable digestion that came with the other changes to his body and metabolism, but he didn’t talk much about that.

Catherine was ready by the time his coffee was. “Is that what you need?” she asked, indicating the coffee and then gesturing vaguely to her neck. He considered the understated offer. It was certainly appealing. She wore on her pale neck a thin black leather collar that bore a silver token. On the token were two glyphs – one indicated House Scion, and the other was one that had come to represent Dutch. Beneath the collar, he knew every millimetre of her carotid as it traced its way up from her heart to her brain. He knew where to bite for the most efficient feed, where to avoid the most nerve endings to avoid pain and maximize the joy of the Kiss, where would show the least in the days between his feeding and the accelerated scarless healing encouraged by enzymes and proteins in his saliva. The Kiss would replenish him, and a few moments of care would promote cell division and collagen development, leaving her restored and blemish-free in superhuman time.
Dutch knew it all, and he wanted what she offered him.

But.

“No,” he said. “Thank you. Not on the plane. The low pressure wouldn’t be good for you. There’s nowhere to recover. Let’s focus and enjoy our coffee for now. Please, let’s begin.”

Catherine Cash smiled as she and Mr. Dutch fought their own warm flushes of yearning for the Kiss. She appreciated her patron for a moment as he sipped his coffee. The suit she had commissioned for him fit him well. He still doesn’t quite fit it, though, she thought. Two hundred years hadn’t put much distance between him and his South African homesteader roots, and the effect was charming, striking, and disarming all at the same time. It was a very composed look she had designed for Mr. Dutch in the last couple of years of their arrangement – almost model-like, with his shaggy blond hair and close-cropped stubble accentuating the farmboy charm. He was built to swing an axe or carry a hay bale, not a briefcase. She had calculated that too as he took on more and more files for his own patrons. The well-groomed hayseed with the charming accent wearing a slick suit like a costume was a gambit. It made people underestimate him. But she knew that her boss was not a man to be underestimated.

“Your contact will be one Gerald Barnabas. House Barnabas,” she began, placing a photo in front of Mr. Dutch. “House Barnabas is small. Localized mostly to the Eastern seaboard. Operates in a couple of ports of note. Philadelphia and Charleston, mostly.”

“He’s in the import-export business, then,” Mr. Dutch said, examining the photo. Barnabas certainly looked the part of an old-time dockhand, bearded and long-haired under a knit cap. His face bore scars from long ago, and he wore a rough coat that suggested a weapon concealed under it.

“Passage for sleeping elders across the Atlantic. Guns and ammunition. Blood and donors. Some trade in historical artifacts,” Catherine continued. “He’s the one that arranged transportation for the original Pax documents back to Europe once the private owner… um, passed.”

Mr. Dutch smiled wryly. That a human had come into possession of those accords, signed by many great and ancient Houses, was a sign of the times. It was becoming harder and harder to maintain the Shroud in the age of infinite information. But they had recovered the document. Not personally, but the team of Normand, Dutch, and Cash had made certain arrangements, and evidently this Barnabas had played a minor role.
“So why exactly are we worried about losing him?”

“The Loop concerns themselves with the fortune and protection of every House,” Catherine recited. “But in all honesty he’s a minor player with delusions of grandeur. His daughter, next in line, is a realist and sees the error in leaving the Loop. So she may be our vector to maintain this trade link.”

“Do we really need someone in the ports this badly?” Dutch wondered, and allowed himself another carefully-paced sip of coffee.
“The family expressed some urgency in keeping this locked down,” she replied quickly. “They didn’t give a reason why.”

Dutch looked over the rim of the mug at her. “But you have a suspicion,” he said. He considered her for a long moment, listening to her heartbeat, smelling a hint of fear hormone in her. “You think it has something to do with Darrian’s execution in Savannah.”

“I do.”

“You think that they want to avoid any situation where one of our own is unable to flee America.”

“I do.”

“You’re allowed to speculate,” he admonished gently.

“I know. I prefer not to.”

“May I, then?”

“By all means,” Catherine said, and closed the folder.

Dutch leaned back and looked out the UV-protected windows. “We’re there to play kingmaker as much as to play nice. We offer Barnabas access to the ports in Savannah if he swears allegiance to the Loop and renounces the Elderidges’ recruitment efforts. We bankroll his expansion into Savannah. Disrupt the foothold of the organized crime that exists there to create a vacuum he can move into.”

She flipped through a couple of pages of the dossier, refreshing her memory. “Effectively, yes.”

“But he’s not sympathetic.”

“No. He’s an ideologue.”

“But his daughter?”

“A pragmatist. And ambitious.”

“Tell me more about her,” Dutch said.

Catherine opened the folder again and flipped through until she found a photo. “Silvia Barnabas,” she said, sliding the photo across the small table. The Learjet bumped through a pocket of turbulence and Dutch lifted his coffee to that he could steady it while he examined the photo. She watched his eyes flick over the photo for a moment before continuing. “She handles the South Carolina operations more or less autonomously. The sense isn’t that she and her father – ”

“Gerald,” Mr. Dutch gently mocked an elaborate voice, quirking an eyebrow at Catherine. She smiled. The name certainly didn’t seem to fit the man.

“The sense isn’t that they’re estranged, or at odds, but she’s made it abundantly clear that she does not need her father,” Catherine continued. Mr. Dutch pulled the dossier over to him and began scanning it as she talked. “And at this stage she does not seem to have any strong affections for him. She has slowly divested herself from the other affairs of Clan Barnabas and has authority, as the eldest child, but few strong ties.”

Mr. Dutch had gone to work in the last couple of sentences of the briefing. Catherine could see the wheels turning in his head. She knew this part of the process – where he worked the problem like a lock. Soon enough, with enough twisting and prodding, the pieces would click into place like tumblers, and the solution would be revealed. Catherine knew the process well, and she enjoyed watching her patron do the same kind of work.

He flipped the folder closed after a couple of minutes’ deliberation and lifted his coffee to his lips again. “I am sorry I’m coming into this so cold,” he said. “The turnaround from the last job to this was… Well, I was not expecting to travel again so soon.”

“You don’t need to apologize to me,” Catherine said. “I suspect Yolanthe will feel the need to discuss the approach more with you when we land, but it’s truly not that complicated a negotiation. Gerald Barnabas will either accept our offer to help him expand into Savannah with our oversight and involvement. Or he does not, and we move on to make the offer to Silvia.”

“From there, we either support her in a coup, or hope that father Barnabas has the good sense to let Silvia do the work,” Mr. Dutch responded. “Maybe – just maybe – we can get her to work with us without explicitly turning on or disobeying her father.” His blue eyes were intense under furrowed brows. “Invisibility is perhaps the optimal solution here. Especially if the idea is to make Savannah a fallback position.”

Catherine leaned back in her chair. “Are you considering going to her first?”

Mr. Dutch shook his head. “No. We have made arrangements to meet with the patriarch of House Barnabas.” He raised an eyebrow again and a smile tugged at his lips. “We would not cancel such an important engagement lightly, Miss Cash. You know that.”

She returned the smile warmly. A tingle spread down her neck where she had offered herself to him before. “My apologies, sir.”

Mr. Dutch let them enjoy the moment before continuing. “I think that – like you said, and like the dossier implies – Sylvia will be interested in the offer. She will want to expand into Georgia, and she, not Barnabas, will be able to do it. But if Barnabas knows that we have designs on the port, perhaps she makes a play to take ownership of Savannah. To prevent a foreign influence from gaining power there,” he explained.

“She would be taking a risk, supporting us covertly.”

“She would. But she stands to gain considerable wealth and influence.”

“Which is where Yolanthe would do what she does best,” Catherine said.

“Yes. I’ll make contact and, if Barnabas refuses to participate, then we make contact with Sylvia and aim for a subtle approach. In the meantime Yolanthe can begin her preparations. And you, too,” he added. “I know that the usual equipment is being delivered, but now that you mention it I will want to feed before the meeting. Just in case Barnabas’ delusions of grandeur lead him to some truly stupid decisions. I will want to be refreshed.”

Catherine nodded, sending waves through her dark brown hair. “I suspected you might. Like you said, you’ve been travelling for some time. I’ve made arrangements with the safehouse.”

“Thank you, Miss Cash,” Mr. Dutch said. “Let’s enjoy the flight for a while until it’s dark enough for Ms. Normand to rejoin us, and consider the task. The torpor is finally catching up with me. We can reconvene in a couple of hours.”

After a few pleasantries, Dutch returned to his seat behind the small office pod. The thirst was indeed creeping in. He had hunted during his last mission, but he had also expended an incredible amount of energy and he had needed to heal considerably in a short period of time. He was drained.

And so with the mission finally well-understood, Dutch leaned his forehead against the windowsill and watched the ocean roll by.
I could be in for this. I'm thinking something along the be lines of a hacker who's kind of gotten lost in the net - someone the other characters would only interact with online or via limited telepresence (hijacked delivery drones, hacked Roombas, IOT appliances, that sort of thing). How does that strike you?
House Scion


Affiliation

Loop

Status and Role

Power brokers and negotiators for House Durad

Seat of power

House Scion is based in Warwickshire, England. The reigning family of House Scion, the Creightons, operate an estate including a stone country house, grounds, offices, and conference areas.

History

House Scion is reportedly descended in an unbroken line from the original vampire house. Their influence in Britain began during the Roman occupation, and in fact their estate is built atop a (now subterranean) Roman homestead, bath complex, barracks, and catacomb.
House Scion is generally respected by old houses, as they have a reputation for long memories and sober, reflective mediation of conflicts. They have deep pockets and deeper roots in both the UK and the colonies. However, much of their influence is soft influence. They project more power than they have. If it came to all-out hostilities, they could perhaps position other houses between themselves and a threat, and one-on-one House Scion operatives tend to punch above their weight. However, they cannot field the fighting forces that some other houses can. They have influence everywhere, but few boots on the ground outside the UK.

Areas of Influence

• UK
• New York, San Francisco
• Montreal, Ottawa
• Johannesburg
• Rio
• Melbourne

Notable Characters

Eldon Creighton – Vampire. Pureblood. Head of House Scion. Born 1604.
Ada Creighton – Vampire. Current matriarch of House Scion. Turned by her husband, 1639.
Mr. Dutch – Vampire. Not his original name. Turned 1900 by Eldon Creighton. Negotiator and fixer for House Scion. Referred to alternately as “Mr. Dutch,” “Dutch,” “The Dutchman,” “the Afrikaner,” and “the Boer.” Blond, slightly baby-faced, small and muscular. Wears a suit in a way that suggests he wants to take it off and put on work clothes.
Catherine Cash – Human familiar. American. Mr. Dutch’s blood doll. Post-graduate degree in political science. Proficient researcher, very analytical. Effectively Chief of Staff to both Mr. Dutch and Yolanthe. Brunette. Rubenesque.
Yolanthe Normand – Vampire. Originally Cameroonian. Turned 1884 by an unknown vampire. Attaché to the Creightons, advisor to (and sometimes manager of) Mr. Dutch. Self-made after she was abandoned by the vampire who made her. Hunted her sire from Cameroon to Egypt to the UK and eventually killed him on the Creighton’s grounds. Her name is an assumed one. Tall, fit, very strong, large features, large natural hair that is often pulled back severely when on the job.

Objectives

House Scion’s fortunes have been inexorably linked to House Durad. If the peace fails, if the Shroud falls, then Scion’s wealth, influence, status, and relevance are all threatened. A full failure of the peace would effectively demonstrate that they lacked either the capacity or the will to do what they needed to do.

To this end, House Scion’s goal is to maintain the Shroud, to try and pacify the Elderidge family and the houses that pledge them allegiance. Should that fail, they will maintain the peace through whatever means they can.

*


Hope this house, these politics, and these characters are intriguing enough for people to want to participate! I look forward to seeing what other ideas people have in this world.

I'm going to go ahead and start a thread in the next couple of days and see if it tickles peoples' fancy. Hope to see you there!
The Loop and the Lariat

Introduction
Our modern world is built on old bones. This has always been true, and these bones have always been strong. Until now.
The elder creatures who laid the seeds of power centuries and millennia ago are beginning to lose their tight grip on the reins of power. The world grows more chaotic. This is no accident. The chaos is by design. It is caused by those who want power trying to pry it from those who have it.

The old houses and clans, the ones who value stability and a return on their investment on entrenched power, are loosely affiliated in an alliance known in whispered corners as The Loop, drawing its name from an ancient European vampire clan’s family crest, bearing a loop of rope with its ends crossed. The Durad family of Montenegro is one of the oldest underground power brokers in Europe, and have taken their crest to heart, ensuring that those they wield their soft power over are bound by the order they have set out. Their influence is slow, and their patience is vast. They place the pieces with care and allow the game to play out accordingly. They protect the relatively small population of vampires from humanity by preserving the shroud – the illusion that they do not exist. They gain wealth and influence, feeding grounds and supplicants. Their structure is that of a noble family, and they wear it on their sleeves, setting the example for the other clans and houses in the Loop – universally old, wealthy ones that have a vested interest in the stability of the systems that sustain them.

This, of course, antagonizes those who are excluded from those hallowed Gothic halls of power.

On the other side of the Atlantic ocean, a more libertarian, anarchic current has stirred. A more recent power broker in the underworld, the Elderidge family, has shaken loose from the control of the Loop. Dissatisfied with the limitations placed on less-powerful clans by the Loop, the Elderidges have systematically turned clan after clan, house after house, against the old guard, promising a less subtle exertion of power. Not satisfied to simply pull the strings, the Elderidges intend to take direct action to control the world they live in. They strike fast, hold fast to the power they acquire. They wrangle their prey and herd them in advantageous directions. They are power brokers the way a paramilitary group becomes a power broker: by simply being too big a threat to ignore. Based in Texas, they twist the icon of the Loop to something less passive: a Lariat. The Lariat are tired of the underground, tired of the shroud, tired of the shadows. Tired of a limit on their wealth and influence. They operate more like an organized crime family, with the inner circle populated almost entirely by the Elderidges. Naturally, there are those who think that they can do things better, and bide their time waiting to wrest power from the Elderidges.

Both sides have operatives everywhere, working in the dark underground to influence politics, gain familiars, make money, undermine their opponents (both in the opposing faction and within their own), and ultimately destroy their enemies.

Genre
Dark Urban Fantasy, Vampire

Setting
Modern, but flashbacks to historical periods are encouraged! I intend to explore how some characters were turned, I hope to play with how certain relationships between individuals and houses came to be. I think it would be fun to explore the current conflict through historical fiction lenses sometimes. Basically don’t feel limited by the modern setting if you want to explore other stuff, but let’s keep the bulk of the storytelling modern.

Players
The goal is to have players create their own house or clan, affiliated with either the Loop or the Lariat. Let’s try to have everyone pick a side, please. This doesn’t mean that affiliation can’t shift or betrayals can’t happen, but let’s avoid fence-sitters at the beginning.
As "GM" I would aim to play a house myself, but also nudge the factions in one direction or another by RPing key members of the Durads and Elderidges, as needed, but honestly I’d love to leave the action as open as possible.
Given that you’re in control of your own house, you’d be in charge of deciding:
Where, geographically, are you located? I encourage people to learn a bit outside their comfort zone! The fun thing about this is that we can have a globe-trotting game with houses operating via different characters in different places around the world.
What is your relative power and reach? Are you a small but noble house? Wealthy and powerful? Populous but distributed thinly across the globe? Localized in one place?
Which characters within that house are you going to write? Who do you need to tell the story of your house during the power struggle between the Loop and the Lariat?
What is your house’s ultimate goal? Are you a staunch defender of the Durad family? Personally ambitious like the Elderidges? Anarchic and malevolent? Sworn to destroy another house? Motivated by greed? Are you a vampire supremacist, marching at the forefront of the Lariat’s power grab? Or do you want to maintain the shroud and preserve the cover that the Loop has defended for centuries?

Questions for you
I want to leave this as open-ended as possible so that we all share ownership over the story, but every fantasy world needs to have some rules. Can I get your feedback on these in the comments?
• Should we have more dark creatures than just different flavours of vampires?
• I tend to prefer the pseudo-scientific approach of, say, Blade over the floaty fantasy of Interview with a Vampire. But I’m open to magic, I’m just not super familiar with magic systems so I’d appreciate input on this one. What do you think? Magic or no? And if yes, to what end? And what kind of limitations on the magic system make sense?
• Should there be some established “hunters” in the world? Or is the truth of the existence of vampires only just beginning to be known?

About that 18+ tag
Vampire fiction always implies a degree of… well, intimacy and violence. I think the genre is suited for 18+ content, so let’s be upfront that we don’t have to be shy about that. I’m not going to put any hard limits in place but if you feel that something might cross a line hit me up and we can discuss. Similarly, if something really crosses a line for you during play please let me know and we can adapt rules as we go. I do encourage everyone to avoid real-world slurs. I like to play with heavy stuff as much as anyone but it’s also important that this remain accessible for those who choose to play.

Hope to get some interest soon so that we can get into it! I’ll start developing my house and characters in the comments. I think it would be fun to start this coming weekend.
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