Patrons of the Underground,

There are a few questions the Board of Directors hears often, and after seeing this asked today on a patron’s Facebook, I’d like to try to answer one of them today:

How do I get my character involved in Larger Than Local play?

To answer this, we first need to agree that there are, loosely, two types of LTL play.

The first type of LTL play simply involves characters outside of your game knowing who you are, or it means having the actions your character takes or opinions your character makes have an affect on characters outside of your local game. This is a sort of notoriety and reputation thing, and is not always simple to foster.

Success at playing this kind of LTL game is generally self-made organically by the player and the momentum of the game. Achieving an influential position such as Harpy, Prince or Sept Leader; posting regularly in clan, sect, tribal or other national Facebook groups; playing at convention, regional and national event games; and pursuing high-visibility plots or opportunities are some of the things players can do.

The second type of LTL play involves being part of Larger Than Local plot that the Underground Theater Content Team is running, including holding an LTL position such as Archon.

Periodically, the OST or the Vice President posts to the Storyteller groups asking STs if there are any characters they believe would fit open LTL positions or would be good to involve in or help spread LTL plots. Very rarely do any storytellers respond to these requests. Tell your local storytellers you want to be more involved!

Success at playing this kind of LTL game can also involve a little Out of Character work by you, the player.  Send an email to the OST of your appropriate genre/venue and ask if there is anything your character might become involved with. Tell the OST a small bit about your character and remember to tell them which game your character is based in. You can do this to pursue a rumor the OST may have posted in a Facebook IC group, you can do this to put your character into consideration for LTL positions, or you can even do this just to ask if there is a plot going on you could somehow get roped into.

The OSTs’ job is to help you become more involved and be part of LTL plot, and they will, but they can’t involve you if they have no idea who you are or that you want to be involved!

The first step to being involved in LTL in any way is nearly always, “be visible in and out of character.”

Finally, let’s address some barriers for becoming involved in LTL:

  • I’m a Storyteller: Storytellers and administrators are never chosen by the Content Team to hold Larger Than Local positions. This is to help maintain fairness and avoid instances in which conflicts of interest can occur.
  • I’m a brand new character: A brand new character has no reputation and no visibility. One way to help overcome this is to email the OST. Just because you are a brand new character does not mean the vampire or werewolf you are playing didn’t exist in the past or have their own reputation. Another way to overcome this is using the Character Ties Facebook groups to network connections between your new character and established ones, and being active on IC Facebook groups also helps.
  • I’m a brand new player: This is a legitimate concern. The OST is unlikely to hand a regional leadership position to a person that no one knows – you may decide you don’t like the game and quit in two months, you may not have the knowledge necessary about Vampire or Werewolf to manage the position within genre expectations, or maybe you might be insane 🙂 . Begin with following the advice from above in “I’m a brand new character.” Additionally, participate in conversations on the OOC groups so that others can get to know you. Traveling to nearby games and attending event games can also help (if you are able).
  • I can’t travel: This is only a partial barrier. Certainly, if you hold an LTL position, your character will benefit from the ability to be at non-local games, especially National Event games, but not all positions require physical travel, and becoming involved in national plot might not require travel at all if your local storyteller staff is willing to help. Talk to your OST and there may be something appropriate for you.
  • I’m a poo-fart: The simple truth is that, for the game to be fun for everyone, the Content Team is pretty unlikely going to give an LTL position to a character that is played by a player who is just a jerk OOC. If you have a bad reputation as a player who treats others poorly, who cheats, who is difficult for other players to get along with – you probably won’t be chosen to become King of the Garou Nation. Content looks for players who are active, friendly, kind and who try to involve others (regardless of if their character is nice or evil). If that’s not the kind of player you are, begin working toward changing how you approach game and those who play around you.

Hopefully, this helps some of you out when considering Larger Than Local opportunities!

For those of you interested, here are the emails for the OSTs:

Werewolf OST

Camarilla/Anarch/IA OST

Sabbat OST

Best of luck to all of you, and I hope your game keeps getting better and better. Remember, the only way to win is to have fun!

~Ryan Faricelli
Director of Communications

[Being a better player and building better characters are themes from my book on better storytelling, better playing and better culture, On A Roll: Level Up Your RPG.]

Good morning Patrons of the Underground,

As Grand Masquerade approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time it was held in New Orleans. It was September of 2011, I was a storyteller for a game in The Garou Nation organization as well as on their board, and after the long drive from Chattanooga to the French Quarter, things went terribly wrong.

I had spent nearly the entire time in New Orleans in the hospital emergency room and in the hotel room terribly ill. Following the event, I spent several weeks home from work recovering. It was a horrible time, and in the end I was diagnosed with panic disorder and my doctors said that I had no choice but to cut everything stressful from my life.

The obvious decision to be made was that I needed to step down from my positions in the national organization. While I knew stepping away was what was best for me, I didn’t want my game to leave the organization because it had benefits for my players and their characters. To my surprise, when learning of my situation, the players in my game actually initiated a vote and voted unanimously that they wanted our game to leave the organization and just be a single independent game.

Amazingly, they wanted me to do what was best for my health. They didn’t care how it affected the game because they new, ultimately, it was just a game.

My storytelling staff had truly developed a gaming community, and this community cared about my health and me. I was incredibly blessed to have helped to create a gaming community of friends who cared more about me as a person than as a storyteller.

In April of that same year, the neighborhood that I lived in was struck by an F4 tornado. From my front and back porches, I looked at empty spaces where houses once stood. I won’t get into too many details here, but I do not exaggerate when I say that we lived in the center of a Federal disaster area.

Personally, my family was very lucky. Our roof was destroyed, the cars were damaged, a lot of exterior elements of my home were wrecked – but for the most part, my house made it through okay.

Wreckage from all of the destruction filled our yard, and there were four or five giant trees in our yard that were now toppled onto the driveway, the street and the grass. Though my house survived, there was going to be weeks of cleanup, both at my house and in our surrounding neighborhoods. We would be without electricity for almost two full weeks.

Something else happened, though. The president of the national org our game was in learned that a local charity was raising money for tornado relief through the sale of advertising logo space on T-shirts, and then selling the T-shirts. The money raised was going directly to people in my community who were in desperate need.

224631_1828556405755_456199_nThey raised over $100 and purchased a space on the T-shirt to put that LARP organization’s logo on the shirt and said that they hoped it would help my community rebuild.

The players in our game were valued as people and the organization wanted to help us as people in need.

In the days that followed, as my neighborhood cleaned up, my yard was filled with many of my best friends helping. But the players in my game were there, too.

The tornadoes happened on Thursday, and I remember Saturday morning being in my yard gathering pieces of roofing and lumber that had been part of some of the destroyed houses around us, and noticing that every person in my yard was a player in my game. They had given up their weekend to help my wife and I try to find our house.

We were so lucky to have a group of gamers who were willing to do hard manual labor on their weekend to help during a crisis. Our gaming community had come together to look out for us in our real life circumstances.

A few years ago, two different members of Underground Theater in different parts of the country committed suicide. Both suicides were unrelated to game, but our organization was still impacted by the loss. We have hundreds of players, but two different games had been hit by the loss of a friend.

UT held a fundraiser and raised several hundred dollars in honor of those two gamers and donated the money to a national suicide prevention organization in their names.

A player in Underground Theater went missing for a week last year. The information was shared by our members across our org and then they shared it to other orgs, reaching over 5,000 people.

There are players in my game who see other players unable to pay their $5 and just reach into their wallet and cover the fee for them without a second thought. There are people in my local game without cars, and they always have rides from other players to get groceries. There are people in my game dealing with difficult real-life issues and they always have shoulders to cry on, sometimes even right before or after game. There are people in my game who struggle with chronic illness and no one even bats an eye to step out of character to care for them or make sure they are okay when things get rough.

We aren’t LARPers. We’re friends.

My game is a place where I hang out with my friends. It’s even the place I met my wife.

That’s what LARP is to me.

What is it to you?

~Ryan Faricelli
Director of Communications

[Portions of this article are reprinted from my book, On A Roll: Level Up Your RPG.]

One of the great things about building a community of gamers like we have done with Underground Theater is that we become friends in real life. Outside of game, we connect with one another over email, telephone and, perhaps most often, social media – Facebook in particular. It’s wonderful for friendships to foster outside of the game, and there’s no doubt that it’s a thing we all should be striving to do.

As we grow more friendly and closer as a group, however, we also grow more comfortable and let down some of our social graces. It’s something that every one of us struggles with, but we can all work together to make this a friendlier place.

Putting a Smiley at the End Doesn’t Make You NOT a Jerk

It’s important to remember that even though we are friends, we are also usually communicating through text, which doesn’t convey tone. Many comments that people could make in person with a smile and good nature come across unfriendly or antagonistic when simply read as text on a computer screen. We need to remember when we write messages to do our best to word them in ways that are clear and friendly. In addition, when we read messages, it always helps to read them erring on the side of assuming the person who wrote it meant it in a kind way.

Be Respectful

We need to also remember that the leadership in Underground Theater are an important part of our community, and that they are doing a very difficult job. They are volunteers, but they are charged with making decisions that are best for the overall organization, and not for any one individual player, storyteller or troupe. This means that sometimes there may be a decision that you disagree with, or that may seem bad for your individual troupe but is good for the overall health of the organization.

The Board does want to know your thoughts, and they take them very seriously. But, when you send them private messages, emails or post about it on Facebook, remember that they do read what you wrote, even if you don’t know it. If you call them horrible names or say they are “stupid,” it truly hurts their feelings (and makes them less inclined to hear your argument). The leadership of Underground Theater is made of people who care, and we should always work to treat them with respect and friendliness, even when airing disagreement.

It’s Not James Davey’s Fault

On that same note, remember that the Board of Directors all have individual roles to play in the leadership of Underground Theater, and they each must represent UT in their respective venues. When you dislike a Board decision, never assume that the board member who announced it is personally responsible for it. That’s rarely the case. The board makes decisions as a group, nearly always by vote. I know personally, I have acted as Communications Director and announced, explained and defended policies and rules that I disagreed with and voted against. My role, however, is to represent the Board and UT when we communicate. The same is true of the President, the Vice President, the Ombudsman and all of the other Board of Director members. Don’t shoot the messenger! We are all just doing the work we volunteered for as best we can.

Think Faster Than You Type

Finally, if something has you riled or upset, stop typing. I’m terrible at this. It’s so easy to fire back responses to things you’re passionate about because… well… you’re passionate about it.

When a post leaves you excited, angry, happy or mad and you need to respond to it, take a moment and think about your response. If you need to type your initial response to get it out of your system, do so – but don’t send it. Wait an hour or two. Game doesn’t move at the speed of light, so you don’t need to either. This time is healthy for you because it will allow you to compose or recompose your thoughts in a better way, with more respect and friendliness than your initial blurted response might. It also gives others a chance to be a part of the conversation before you shut it down or you shove it forward.

Think about what kind of communicator you want to be and how it will affect you and the gaming community we are building. If you wouldn’t say it in person to that person’s face, maybe you shouldn’t be typing it, either.

~Ryan Faricelli
Director of Communications

The in-game story of the board game Monopoly is that a group of investors are all competing with one another to purchase and monetize as many properties as possible. At the end of the game, all of these investors total up their money and someone finishes the game with the most – A clear winner. The game is over. The story ends.

Role-playing games aren’t like board games. When our characters finish a story, defeating the villain and achieving the reward, the game doesn’t end. No one “wins” in that traditional fashion. The game continues, the characters move on, the story turns into a new beginning for a different tale.

This unique element of role-playing led me to my gaming philosophy: The only way to win an RPG is to have fun.

Looking at LARP through a lens of having fun helps me to keep my investment in check, maintain a healthy attitude about game, play for the right reasons and, perhaps most importantly, it helps me to quickly recognize and avoid the jerk-faces and stupidity that the out-of-character drama of LARPing is so easily consumed with. I paint everything I do in our hobby with that statement. I believe it so fully, I even wrote an entire book on game theory centered upon that ideal.

At it’s most basic, watered-down level, having fun happens by playing a game while in character, and acting like mature adults who are part of a friendly community when not in-character.

If that sounds familiar, it is because this philosophy has become embraced by many of the people in Underground Theater. It has even become part of our Mission Statement and part of how we run our organization. We do our best to be a new kind of LARP organization where friendship and community matters more than XP and special snowflakes.

Recently, Underground Theater has seen an uptick in out-of-character issues – Issues that gamers should know will be issues before they even get involved in them. Worse, many of these involve people who should know better than to be engaged in those kinds of activities.

In a simple world, we would just tell gamers to quite being jerk-faces and to stop the stupidness. We would suggest people go to their LSTs before escalating questions or issues to Facebook or to Board Members or even to the Ombudsman. We would note to gamers that if you think what you’re doing is shifty, it probably is. We would point out that if you keep finding yourself in the middle of problematic OOC drama, you’re probably doing something that’s bringing it about and you need to figure out what that is and change it, instead of solely blaming those around you.

In a simple world, we would encourage everyone to consider whether or not they would be okay with others doing what they are doing before taking part in questionable activities. We would remind people this is just a game, and that we’re a group of friends who are part of a community of gamers and that kindness and understanding are more important than our characters getting experience points or successfully stomping another character.

But let’s be honest with ourselves: In a game based on character versus character politics, sometimes it’s difficult to keep our heads above water. So instead, let’s view this as an opportunity to help one another and our gaming community.

If the goal is to win, and winning is having fun, then even the most simple of actions have considerations that are greater than just the action itself. Every action affects an aspect of the game, and those aspects all affect whether or not players are having fun in our community. We should consider these aspects when facing out-of-character decisions and actions. I believe that the four most important aspects of a game that must be considered when making decisions are: People, The Game, Characters and finally, Story.

The most important aspect is People. The real life people who play in your game, their feelings and their happiness are the most important thing to consider when making decisions or taking actions. A player having fun is dependent on that player feeling safe, welcomed and happy. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what happens to our characters as long as our players are having fun.

The second most important aspect is The Game. By this, I mean the game as a whole, in its entirety – From the rules to the organization to your local troupe. You must consider the overall “everything” that makes up the game. Consider what is best for the players, and then consider what’s best for the game itself.

Thirdly, consider the Characters in the game. How will your decision affect the characters that exist in the game you are running? Remember, players are not their characters, and what is best for the player may not be the best for the character, or vice versa.

Finally, consider how your decision will affect the story you are telling in your game.

All four of these things are important, but the people must come first, then the game as a whole, then the characters, and finally the story. Prioritizing these considerations in this way will help you make better decisions as you lead your gaming community towards better gaming. And a better game is more fun.

Drama is dumb, especially amongst our friends.

We should be playing to win, and the only way to win an RPG is to have fun.

~Ryan Faricelli
Director of Communications

Patrons of the Underground~

Welcome to the very first Words from the Underground, our little blog in the corner of the World of Darkness. It seemed only fitting that the first entry be filled with the words of our own patrons, so it’s time to see the results of our Best Clan…EVER! survey.

After passionate disagreement with the rankings of the 13 clans by the folks over at io9.com, we decided to see what our patrons thought. We had over one hundred responses from patrons, ranking their favorite clans from 1 to 13, and leaving us comments on why their favorite was the best. Let’s check out the results, and hear in your own words why each clan is your favorite.


13. Ravnos

Unfortunately, the vampiric gypsy clan found little love amongst Patrons of the Underground. Chimistry and thievery couldn’t help this clan from ranking last in both our survey and in the rankings over at io9. We did have one patron who ranked them as the best, and here’s what they said:

“It fits me – that part of me that needs the catharsis.”

12. Giovanni

They could’a been contenders… They could’a been somebody… But instead, they’re second to last place amongst our patrons. There’s still good in them, however…

“The Giovanni are a family with a unique structure. They can speak and control ghosts, which is awesome, and they are loyal and can stand for their own. Even if they have some family quarrels, they are a family. They are also Italian necromancers, which is a cool concept on its own. They eradicated one previously major clan and one bloodline, and gave the stinky pinky to the Camarilla. They are Mob-like and, frankly, I love American mob movies. They are the best!”

11. Followers of Set

The Followers of Set slithered their way into 11th place, and a few of our patrons shared their thoughts on them:

“Followers of Set accept that there may be other Gods, Caine, and a plethora of other things in the universe. They’re just out to be the best bad they can be.”

“The Followers of Set evoke the vampire mythos in a creative and unique fashion without being an offensive racist caricature.”

10. Toreador

Art and Celerity combined to bring the Toreador to 10th place on our patron’s list, though they got a little help from Anne Rice…

“The embracing of artistic endeavors in a world of darkness and destruction evokes a tragic romanticism that feels like the thematic heart of classic vampire tales.”

“Lestat was a Toreador!”

9. Ventrue

Perhaps the surprise on this list, io9.com’s choice for the number 1 clan didn’t fair as well amongst the Patrons of the Underground. The Ventrue landed at number 9 amongst Underground Theater voters.

“The highest of the high. The clan of kings.”

“Heavy is the head, the Ventrue are the essence of the commanding romantic monster.”

Though, one patron ranked them number one simply because,

“Duh.”

8. Malkavian

Some folks may find Malkavians placing 8th to be insane, and others may find that phrase to just be a dumb joke. Either way, our patrons had this to say about them:

“There is more nuance and CHALLENGE in insanity than in any more rational motivation. Also, their flaw is role-play oriented, rather team purely mechanical. I appreciate any concept that encourages a player to step outside their comfort zone and real immerse themselves in something really ALIEN in the gooey center.”

“What does it mean to be “sane”? Insanity is the curse of the other clans who lack the perspective to see *both* the bigger picture, and the true meaning behind the details.”

“Ha ha ha ha ha…”

7. Assamite

The quiet, noble assassins, scholars and sorcerers of the Assamites made their way to 7th place in our survey.

“I have always enjoyed the story of the Assamite clan and the struggles that they have endured. I enjoy playing within those struggles, because each time, I am always able to explore it in a different way.”

“I love the story of a clan dedicated to policing the night.”

6. Brujah

Tough. Fast. Loyal. The Brujah landed squarely in the middle of our survey results. When the total numbers are analyzed, this clan was nearly universally ranked just a bit above the middle. Even Braden’s abs couldn’t crunch this clan to a higher spot (though they certainly weren’t ignored).

“Theo Bell is dreamy.”

“Even among predators, the whole brotherhood ‘us versus them’ mentality is great! Most people think the Brujah are mindless thugs, but they can be completely awesome when you really look at the clan as whole and what they stand for.”

5. Tzimisce

We can’t agree on how to pronounce them, but the Patrons of the Underground did agree to place these “evil” wizards at number 5.

“Clan Tzimisce are the stereotypical, evil vampire lords. An old clan that not only has sorcerers and warriors, but also bred families of ghouls. They are patient and not afraid to be the monsters that they are. Vicissitude is one of the most interesting powers in the game.”

“Rich history with a twist (literally and metaphorically)! Great for any role and as flexible as their discipline!”

4. Lasombra

Securing the same 4th place here as they did on io9.com’s article, the Lasombra seem to be a universal favorite amongst Vampire players.

“The Lasombra clan epitomizes practicality, seldom letting morality get in the way. Where other clans developed a social structure which gives their clans a certain feel, the Lasombra’s survival of the fittest method illuminates a form-following-function conviction.”

“Lasombra are evil Machiavellian predators – ruthless tyrants that have the Potence to back it up.”

 3. Tremere

Clearly a polarizing clan, the survey responses were most interesting with the Tremere’s 3rd place finish. While this clan received the highest number of 1st place votes (17), it also received the most votes for 12th and 13th places, making this truly a “love them” or “hate them” choice amongst the Patrons of the Underground.

“The clan you love to hate.”

“Tremere secrecy fits with the overall setting. They have a game within a game, gaining both status in their clan as well as in the Camarilla. One never knows exactly what they’ll have at their disposal. They are the quintessential powers behind closed doors.”

2. Gangrel

The animalistic nature of the Gangrel placed 2nd in our survey. Patrons who selected them as their top choice showed a pattern of likening them to being the vampires who are the closest to playing werewolves (Underground Theater apparently has a lot of patrons who like Werewolf: The Apocalypse).

“Gangrel was the first clan I ever played. Protean is the reason I fell in love with the clan, and the Gangrel are why I fell in love with Vampire: The Masquerade.”

“Gangrel have the very dangerous combination of Protean, Fortitude and Animalism, making them consumate hunters. In a game where any character is considered a predator, they are paragons of such. In cases where a fight goes against them, they have a number of valid “fair escape” options (Flight Form, Elder Protean powers, etc). They also have one of the more interesting interaction opportunities in UT games, with significant player-driven plot.”

1. Nosferatu

Are you surprised? These creepy sewer-dwellers who seem to always know everything rose from beneath the cities to take the top spot in our patrons’ survey as the Best Clan… EVER!

“The Nosferatu are a group of monsters forced to live underground. Most think this is because of their hideous forms, but really it’s because their Antideluvian is trying to kill them all and has embraced a group of sociopathic Methuselahs whose only goal is to complete that task. And they’ve survived – more than that, they’ve thrived.”

“To know is to rule.”


Now that the survey is over, what do you think of the results? Do you agree with your fellow Underground Theater patrons? Either way, thank you all for participating and helping to make this the Best Org… EVER!

~Ryan Faricelli
Director of Communications