We’re playing it loose this time around, with just a bundle of very general thoughts. Nothing too exciting (maybe), but some random thoughts on concepts, mechanics, and the like. Some of this is just free-floating ideas I have, and some of this is actual stuff I’ve been trying to work on to no avail. So, let’s hop to it… [EDIT: I’m leaving this up just to show what I meant to do… about one paragraph in below, I ditched the Bullet Point it was and just ran with it. So. Yeah. Let’s call this idea Vendetta for now, shall we?]

Random Thought Round-Up [EDIT: as of 11:30, this header is now “Crime Drama”]
I like tragedy more than I like comedy. Comedy is cool and all, but tragedy is cooler. The end, full stop. The fall of tragic characters is very exciting — Aristotle was right about that. And this lead-up has me thinking about crime dramas or crime tragedies… the notion really interests me. I remarked recently to a friend that “hey, Houses of the Blooded could totally run a mafia game. Make the House names Italian, change the Domains-Provinces-Regions to Territory-Turf-Rackets, and you’re more or less there.” Close, anyway. The ideas that really interests me about crime drama are: Firstly, the sheer barbarism necessary to perform legitimate violence on someone else; and the aspects of familial ties, legacy, fraternity, and the inevitable sacrifice and betrayal of competing aims.

As I sit here typing this as it comes to me, I check NetFlix and find that Godfather and GoodFellas are not on View Instantly which kind of sucks for the purpose of my approaching this… But The Black Donnellys comes to mind. A short-lived NBC crime family drama that followed the story of four black (as in, dark featured)-irish brothers in New York City whose father was killed by Italian gangsters while they were young. Watched out for while growing up by a business associate of their father (and Irish mob boss) the brothers grow up and get by for the most part… Tommy goes to art school, Kevin gambles, Sean is a hit with the girls, and Jimmy is a dope addict with designs to grandeur. Their delicate position in life comes crumbling down after a stupid job gone wrong: in the end an Italian is dead, one of them takes a merciless beating, and Tommy commits two murders to protect his brothers.

The moment of the pilot where Tommy walks away from everything he could have been for his brothers informs the tone of such scenes of violence throughout the series. If it’s the protagonists doing it, they’re not always good at it… and they can’t always go through with it; the violence is painful or damaging to the one perpetrating it. That interests me. It doesn’t glorify the violence, and is downright tragic about it to a degree. So that interests me. So, let’s try something.

I Don’t Know How I Found A Topic In My Ramblings
Everyone at the table, except the Narrator, is a member of The Crew. The Crew is family. They’re more than family — they’re brothers. You hide things from your parents, and you lie to your kids; but brothers? You just pick on them and scuff their knees. You care. That bond is sacred. It’s different. And it means you’re never, ever going to take it lightly if one of them doesn’t have your back. Oh, also, the women at the table? They’re brothers too. It just has a ring to it, that’s why I go with it.

Your Crew is drawn along some sort of lines… figure out what that is. Racial lines? Haitian, Honduran, Irish, Italian… I dunno, you figure that out. Or maybe they’re just lines of association: you actually are siblings, you’re from the same orphanage (Four Brothers was another interesting one), you grew up together in the same neighborhood.

Also, you all have Ties: people, things, situations that you live for — the girl next door that you pine after, your gambling addiction, your bar, your Ma (why yes, you could make a Tie one of the other people at the table; I think that’d make for an extremely tightly focused game? Possibly. This is stream of consciousness! We’ll see — however, you don’t have to, because protecting your brothers touches on something else… Ultraviolence). These’re the things you would put your life on the line for; if your character is willing to fight for it, it’s a Tie, I figure. Playing an alcoholic who can “quit anytime” he wants? Sounds like a Tie. A casanova who loves them and leaves them as a way of life? Could be a Tie, if he wouldn’t back down when called a pig. If you would fight the carjacker, punch out the drunken brawler, or take a bullet for Ma — then the Car, the Bar, and the Mom are Ties. The things introduced as Ties are all going to be NPCs, Sets, and Props when you play.

In addition to having Ties, you also have Depravity — this may be ultraviolence depending on your group (and you should confirm this at the start of the game) but it will always be some level of violence gone too far regardless. Find your player group’s comfort level, and go just one hair too far on the dial. Find your group’s 10, and spin that dial towards 11 ’til the switch is fit to snap. This is shooting the man you hate, this is assaulting with a baseball bat the man threatening your brother with a lawsuit; this is getting into bed (figuratively maybe, and literally definitely) with the mistress of the meanest, deadliest thug in town — this is business violence is what it is; violence because it destroys. This is action done to damn, not to protect. If there is no immediate threat and your intention is at the expense of someone else, we’re looking at Depravity here. But what if you aim your ultraviolence at the man feeding your brother’s addiction — surely you’re doing it to protect your brother? If it transgresses against your brother’s Ties — it is Depravity, and you’re a traitor. There is always the chance (and the likelihood) for your Samaritan routine to go stupidly wrong when trying to control someone’s world for their own good.

Stay tuned for Part 2