Steam Award Nominations By Someone Who Hasn’t Played Any This Year

This is a curious year for the Steam Awards.

For one, it feels like there haven’t been as many notable games launching this year, compared to other years. I presume something called a pandemic may have had something to do with that.

For another, a portion of those notable games have been coming out on different platforms and are thus not eligible for the Steam awards. The Final Fantasy 7 Remake immediately popped into mind, as well as the more recent and presumably relatively popular Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as another example.

Then there was Animal Crossing: New Horizons taking over peoples’ lives in the early part of the year, and totally not on Steam as well.

Add to that the strange weirdness of the ridiculously popular Among Us, which definitely became something of a zeitgeist in 2020 (of which I felt like the only lone hermit who did not partake), being quite ineligible as well. Apparently, it released in 2018 and was only re-discovered and re-hyped by streamers this year.

So we end up with a smaller than usual list, whittled down even further by the necessities of having a Steam release date of 2020.

And oh, did I mention I am a patient gamer who only buys things on heavy discount and have thusly played a grand total of zero big popular games released in 2020?

Steam wound up suggesting eligible “games you’ve played in 2020” like Fae Tactics and Metal Unit – which came in one Humble Bundle or another, which I taste tested for an hour or so. Nothing against either game (although Metal Unit is distinctly still in early access), but they are eminently small fry and would not even make a blip on the radar of awards that are meant to consolidate collective popular opinion.

Yep, definitely an extra special interesting year for the Steam Award nominations.

To add salt into the wound, Warframe is no longer eligible for the Labor of Love award, having swept up that category for goodness knows how many years running. So I went for the other obvious standby.

Arguably, Terraria may be another popular contender for this category, having had one big final update that even got me revving up the game for some time. But then, “This game, to this day, is still getting new content after all these years” and a -final-, journey’s end update don’t exactly mix, do they?

Next, we have the standard dilemma of overlapping games that can easily qualify for multiple awards, and attempting to partition them out in some way.

Popular multiplayer game fads this year that came to mind as things streamers were jumping on: Fall Guys, Among Us (mentioned above), and Phasmophobia. Nearly all multiplayer games are, by definition, “Better With Friends.”

(I mean, is there really such a thing as a multiplayer game better with enemies or people you severely dislike? Sea of Thieves? Eve Online? A MOBA? Neptune’s Pride / Solium Infernum? But but.. the joy comes in backstabbing people you know, right? Not strangers. But I digress..)

After a brief period of self-debate, I passed it off to the more light-hearted Fall Guys, for the sheer -quantity- of friends it allows in a game.

Phasmophobia also, I felt, deserved a highlight for breaking an innovation boundary of successfully bringing in and using voice chat / voice recognition as a significant part of its gameplay. (Other games have tried before this, but did not quite make it to being this popular.)

The other super obvious game that would -have- to make it on some kind of category was Hades.

The game seemed to have taken over the consciousness of pretty much every gamer in existence. There are only 1.1% negative reviews on Steam. If that is not close to being universally appealing, I don’t know what is.

Holding out being a patient gamer for this game has been hard. (Maybe in the winter/Christmas sale it might get to 33% off. Let’s see if I can wait till 50% off.)

Game of the Year contender? Definitely. Soundtrack? Possibly. Game You Suck At? Most Likely. It’s a roguelike after all, it’s built into the design.

But I ultimately gave it this category:

It is undeniably a stand out in how it looks. Most Supergiant games are. They are visually distinct and drip, nay, gush with style and panache.

The other visual style contender was Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The play of light and color in that game’s screenshots are riveting.

But then, as I juggled listening to the soundtracks of Hades, Ori and Doom Eternal on Youtube, there was only one soundtrack I would definitely be willing to sit through for all 3 hours and then put on repeat loop.

Moving into the “I’m running dry, let’s abuse Steam release dates since they’re already so unfair anyway” territory, I spied Factorio on the list of -ostensibly- released in 2020.

That was easy. Have you seen my spaghetti base way back in 2019? (And I was pretty late to the Factorio party.) Some day, when I wrastle up enough courage, I’ll try again.

Story-Rich Game was hard. So hard. Final Fantasy 7 remake was the obvious contender, but you know, console exclusive. The ever so polarizing Last of Us 2? Yep, you know what.

(Ghost of Tsushima would not exactly be my first choice for story game per se, but hey, it’s a popular game released in 2020 – also moot for the same reason.)

I briefly stared at Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York (which I did taste test as part of a Humble Bundle, and found it “meh” aka decent, but not earthshaking). Then I read the Steam page for Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest, which seemed to be more positive review-wise, but didn’t strike me as something I could vote for sight unseen.

Finally, I decided to just abuse Steam release dates some more and go with something I played on the PS4 and know has a solid emotional story.

Come to think of it, if we’re sitting around abusing Steam release dates for PS4 games, another obvious contender for story-rich game has just come to mind as I write this blog. Detroit: Become Human. But come on, it’s released on the PS4, then it released on Epic last year, and then finally on Steam. It’s tough to consider it ‘new’ at this point. (At least HZD released at the same time on both Epic and Steam, making it somewhat questionably ‘new’ for the PC.)

I saved the Sit Back and Relax Award for an indie I have been patiently waiting for and craving. I love coffee and the cafe culture. It seems right up my alley. Just got to #patientgamer a little more – it might bundle at some point!

VR Game? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m still waiting on building a PC with Windows 10. Covid spanner into 2020 plans and all that. Who has the spare cash for a VR headset? Who would keep track of VR games without owning a VR headset?

What’s that, you say? I need to vote for all categories in order to complete this meaningless little task checkbox so that I can get a meaningless (but shiny) award/badge/xp?

*heads to the VR section of Steam in the hopes of finding something that pops out*

No worries, Valve. I understand shilling for your platform.

(It’s apparently quite good. I wouldn’t know.)

And of course, finally, in another rehash of abusing Steam release dates for PS4 games, comes the final contender that was busy duking it out with Hades for Game of the Year, and was also being considered for Innovative Gameplay and maybe, but not quite, Story-Rich Game.

Let’s face it. From what I understand of it, Hades is a gamer’s game. It seems to be technically perfect from an execution standpoint, of fast hitting action, of challenge, of repetition, of being visually outstanding and tying in gameplay mechanics to its story and design. It excels in execution.

But in vision? In innovation and breaking boundaries? Of being that sort of classic that polarizes and confuses some people for being just a little too forwardly thinking out there?

Let’s put it this way. I’m willing to build a PC to get Windows 10 going in order to play Death Stranding. I don’t think I would go through the same effort for Hades. I’d get to it when I get to it.

My threshold price for Hades is probably 33-50% off. If I had a computer capable of playing Death Stranding, I would have bought it immediately at launch price.

Then there’s the whole creepy synchronization between the themes of Death Stranding – isolation and connection, the working class and those being delivered to, life and death and the apocalypse with the entirety of real world 2020.

When we look at it that way, how could it not be Game of the Year?

For the First Time…

So where have I been?

Nowhere. Still quarantining at home for the most part. Occasionally coerced pointlessly back into the office, with masks. Figuring out how to navigate this new world of shaky supply chains and logistics, where grocery shopping for balanced nutrition while remaining as socially distanced as possible are consciously planned actions.

Juggling the bliss of pure introversion becoming a societally benevolent survival strategy with the downside of extraverts and ambiverts mentally breaking down all around me and absorbing some of that stress leakage in assorted ways.

Achieving a number of firsts in the past couple of months. (Though I use the word ‘achieving’ extremely loosely.) Perhaps ‘encountering’ would be a better term.

I lost an entire month or more to catching up with the entire saga of The Wandering Inn. That’s a first. I can’t even recall being so ‘with it’ with Worm or Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I’ve forgotten most of the details of the latter two web serials, but I feel like I’ll remember every single one of the Wandering Inn’s cast of wacky characters.

I guess I have to take back my initial impression of LitRPG being weird. If the writing can captivate me for that long, I have zero leg to stand on.

At the same time, for the first time, I have divested myself of Guild Wars 2. As in, seriously, consciously let go of it. The hardcore achiever collect-it-all mindset. The endless frustration about the endless lag. The twice weekly raid obligations. The mental drag of forever full bags.

Burnout had been a long time coming anyway – I might have clung on three more years than I should have. I gave the fractal update a pass. I skipped Halloween. I might get around to -very- casually dipping a toe into the latest story chapter at some point, but I’m four days late to the party and I don’t really care that much. If I don’t log in, I don’t have to deal with any of the weighty matters above. One less mental burden in this crapsack 2020 year.

I could be doing other things. Like catch up on my reading. I blazed through the latest Dresden Files – Peace Talks and about 7/8 of the way through Battle Ground – in a couple of days.

The past three months have also been a nouveau experiment in a new style of gaming.

I haven’t quite pinned down a proper term for it yet.

I mean, we’ve all heard of patient gaming by now, where one chooses to wait for a period of time before buying and playing a video game – aka doing one’s best to avoid the launch hype and the launch price.

Every so often in the respective reddit, someone pops up with the eternal lament about dealing with one’s “backlog” of games they want to play, and others return assorted advice about creating a structured list and sticking to it, limiting one’s options, reframing perspectives and erasing the word “backlog” and replacing it with “collection” or “library,” relaxing the obsession with game completion, etc. etc.

Infrequently, I chime in with a slightly more left-field strategy of cycling as many games as one desires for 15-30 mins or some other random block of time.

It’s meant as a short term tactic of satisfying the urge to try out the many games on one’s mental list of “stuff I want to play” while trusting that one might eventually bump into something that sticks for longer or worse case scenario, one covers a lot of games territory while encountering nothing captivating.

It works, for me, at any rate. I have a large amount of already collected games at any one time and ridiculously diverse tastes, so the limited focus, specialization strategies don’t work as well for me.

What I -was- experimenting with was a larger scale, variant application of this idea, and stealing some of the theme behind Krikket’s “Play to Satisfaction” policy.

The working term is “Unfettered Gaming” as inspired by the Stephen R. Donaldson poem about Unfettered Ones – the quote that keeps echoing through my mind is “Free Unfettered Shriven Free”

It’s a mouthful, but it encapsulates the idea of loosing all restrictions. All “shoulds” and “have tos” and “ought tos.” It’s the antithesis to the Five Game Challenge, which is more one of those limited focus strategies.

It’s about even deliberately playing against those mental restrictions, if one becomes aware that some baggage is bogging them down, so that one realizes the world won’t end when doing so.

Example – “I should complete all games when I start playing them.” “I want to see the story to the end.”

Heck, no. That is a LOT of baggage to deal with. The reality is that I don’t complete most games. Nor do many other people. So why put that expectation on myself? I’ll play the game up to the point I no longer feel like playing it. Once it gets too onerous, I shall decide to stop and decide on the next action.

Am I just not interested in the gameplay? But still keen on finding out what happens next? I shall check out a written synopsis or skim through a Youtube Let’s Play, and call it done.

Am I stuck? Do I not know where to go? I shall use a walkthrough and disregard the “real gamers don’t use walkthroughs” guilt trip glomping around in the back of my mind.

Is the game too hard? Too frustrating? I shall find a cheat. I shall lower the difficulty. I will MOD the shit out of the game until I like it again.

(Which is, by the by, how I spent 2-3 weeks in the past months playing ARK singleplayer. The default setings are bullcrap. Harvesting and resources and dino taming settings were tweaked to be easier. I played until I bogged down, realized the weight limit sucked, and turned up the player weight and dinosaur weights.

No point owning a bunch of Brontosaurus if carting things from them is annoying as hell with 250 weight limit. Yes, the tamed dinos have all overrun the place. #firsthousesyndrome
This new slightly more sizeable compound brought to you by a 1600 weight limit and the resources stone and wood.

Argentavis speed is terrible? Mod it for classic flyer speed. Classic flyer speed still too damn slow? Fiddle with the config file for TWICE the speed. Now I can actually solo fly across the island in decent time.

Wheeeeee!

It’s not at all cheating oneself if one will actually stay -longer- with a game when doing so. Ditto Sunless Sea and ship speeds. So goddamn turtle slow.)

Am I truthfully just no longer interested in the game for the current moment? As in, not likely to click on the icon in the next week or so?

I used to just keep the game around… just in case. Well, part of deliberate unfettered gaming is to loose that fetter. UNINSTALLED.

Gone from the hard disk. What’s the harm? I can always re-download it again when I get the urge to play it again. The save files are mostly all intelligently maintained or cloud saved these days.

And truthfully, if I don’t come back to the game within a week, I have probably forgotten how to play it and will usually have to start a new game rather than pick up half way in a save I don’t remember at a difficulty that is now too ramped up for the unfamiliar.

This part is probably the biggest personal mental habit that I have been deliberately working against to break. I hoard. I cling. It’s what I do. I accumulate stuff. I accumulate installed games all over the place until my hard disks are crammed full.

I am slowly, ever so slowly learning, that the world is not going to end if I just make a little virtual note that I might play X game again someday, and then strip the thing from my hard drive and have the Steam list a bit more greyed out than usual.

“I should play this game properly” “I want to be optimal” “I need to learn the exact ratio of X to Y in order to make this as efficient as can be” “I can’t enjoy this game unless I’m playing it in a properly approved best practices manner.”

Yes, some people enjoy doing so. That’s how they play their games. All power to them. You? You don’t have time to do so. Learning to be an expert is going to take longer than you’re likely to stay with the game in the first place, given your distracted honeybee mind.

So if your virtual city’s roads look like a Mayan hieroglyph…

… and your new highway flyover is daring the city’s denizens to commit suicide if they accelerate up it too fast…

…you know what? They’re just going to have to deal. (Anyway, it makes all the cars and lorries slow down before they attempt the sharpest angle turn of their lives. It’s fine.)

So my Steam games activity list has looked something like the above for the past month or so. A new game “for the first time” every couple of days.

Whatever I feel like playing, I play.

However I feel like playing, I play.

Whatever I don’t feel like playing, I don’t play. (And uninstall it after some time.)

Whenever I don’t feel like playing, I don’t play. (And do something else, like reading, or watching Youtube videos, or eating, or even *gasp* exercising – on a small scale, with microworkouts.)

It’s been harder to blog about because I’m not about to write a first impressions post or paragraph for every last random game I play. And then drop happily after a couple hours or days, having enjoyed most of my time spent with most of them. That becomes an obligation and we’re doing Unfettered Gaming here.

That’s the whole point.

Thousand Year Old Vampire – Solo RPG Playtest 1

Thousand Year Old Vampire is a lonely solo role-playing game in which you chronicle the unlife of a vampire over the many centuries of their existence, beginning with the loss of mortality and ending with their inevitable destruction.

This vampire will surprise you as they do things that are unexpected, unpleasant, and sometimes tragic. Making gut-churning decisions, performing irreconcilable acts, and resolving difficult narrative threads are what this game is about as you explore the vampire’s human failings, villainous acts, and surprising victories.

Game mechanics are simple and intuitive. Play progresses semi-randomly through the Prompts section of this book. Answer Prompts to learn about your vampire’s wants and needs, to learn what challenges they face, and to chart their decline into senescence. Build up a character record of Memories and then lose them to the inexorable crush of time. See everyone you’ve loved and hated grow old and die, then turn to dust.

— From the first page of the “Thousand Year Old Vampire” RPG book by Tim Hutchings

I’ve left the book to speak for itself in summarizing what it’s about, because I strongly doubt I can do any better than that elegant synopsis.

There are about 6000 community copies left on the Itch.IO page as of this writing, so there is pretty much no excuse for not giving it a look, even if one is currently not able or willing to pay $15 USD for the PDF.

It is… intriguing. It is equal parts meta decision-making game, writing prompt exercise, daydream enabler and will send you off down Wikipedia history searches as if one was reading TV Tropes.

What is recorded is only part of the story. Sometimes it’s more interesting to consider the things left unspoken, the memories deliberately or inadvertently forgotten.

I gave it a test drive the other day.

Disclaimer: I got fairly loose with historical research after a while and started just chasing the “what would happen next” story aspect, handwaving a layer of standard medieval and supernatural urban fantasy tropes as plot scaffolding instead.

Still, it was pretty fun. You end up creating a character and taking them through eventful moments in their (un)life, generating a cast of attendant characters they knew along the way.

It’s not at all comprehensive, just snippets and fragments of memory and emotions and experiences, but enough to have a grasp of this strange being’s journey through time.

Below, on the left is the play record as I progressed through the game. Strikethroughs symbolize things written off – memories that should be forgotten, as instructed by the game, or mortals that have long since died, as dictated by one’s personal hunch after one senses the passing of time after various prompts.

On the right, I add a summary of what happened, post game commentary and reflections, a more meta discussion of what went on that did not get recorded. I find that impact on the player equally interesting.


Origin – I was Tigran, son of Petros (a musician), born in Antioch in the late 11th century (~1080); I was apprenticed to a fisherman who plied the river.

Mortal Characters:

  • Davit the fisherman – aloof, prejudiced, ready to make life a living hell
  • Petros, my father – a cultured musician with an air of mystery, a drifter 
  • Erik, my friend and rival – apprenticed to a knifesmith, impatient, argumentative
  • Tamar, my mother – a laundress who died of an illness when I was very young
  • Robert – a pious Christian soldier who discovered one of my roadside victims
  • Mark, descendant of Robert – a scholar historian
  • William, a calm rational smuggling captain
  • Sophia, descendant of Mark – secret society member / vampire hunter
  • Tarik, apprentice of the Arab trader Juliana and I killed. Executed for the crime.
  • Giuseppe, an Italian government minister

Immortal Characters:

  • Unnamed knight – my creator
  • Maria – an abbess aka Larisa an adventurer / treasure hunter
  • Jihan – a Turkish girl goatherd
  • Juliana – a noblewoman in love with me

Skills:

  • X Boat Handling
  • Fishery
  • X Amateur Piper
  • X Bloodthirsty
  • X The Eyes Hypnotize
  • Submerged swimmer
  • X Hider of Corpses
  • X Snake Charmer’s Tongue (verbal hypnosis)
  • X I Know What’s Real
  • Stillness of the Grave
  • X Record-Keeping Scribe
  • X Visionary
  • Woodcarving
  • It’s None of my Concern
  • Basic Chemistry
  • Guvnor, You’re in My Debt
  • A Short Call Away

Resources:

  • A well-made fishing knife
  • A true historical treatise on the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire
  • A reed pipe I carved myself
  • Shop of Crusade antiquities
  • An ornate gold bracelet that was tangled up in the nets that I found and hid
  • Political clout via Giuseppe
  • Chemistry lab
  • Electrical arc light

Marks:

  • My left lip and ear are rat-gnawed; I must shade that side of my face to pass in public.
  • My eyes are bleached white, I look unnerving and have been confused as a blind man on occasion.

Memories & Experiences I Still Remember:

  • I show my father my reed pipe when he comes by on one of his rare sporadic visits, in a boyish attempt to make him proud of me; all I can remember is his wincing grimace that he doesn’t bother to hide and his quick dismissal – I am disappointed but I hide it equally quickly in sullen rebellious anger
    • One day, I misjudge traveling distances and am caught out in the open when the sun is almost about to rise. I hide in a goatherd’s shelter and there, Jihan, a young girl discovers me. Thinking I am a blind beggar, she doesn’t panic and offers me kindness and food. I play my reed pipe for her – we are both mesmerized, her with the music and me with nostalgia.
    • Her closeness undid me and the vampire had to feed. I did not wish to kill her and she swallowed some of my blood when she weakly struggled and bit me. When she woke as an undead, I realized I had turned her.
  • It is the 19th century and I have married into a noblewoman’s household – Juliana. Within a month, I have turned her. Between her fortune and my knowledge of old, we are wealthy and able to afford loyal retainers and private covered carriages. I re-created my shop of antiquities trade and one of the prime artifacts (on loan, never sold) is a historical treatise on the Crusades retrieved from my ‘time capsule.’
    • An Arab trader had the gall to swindle me on a clothing deal; Juliana was furious. I caught him before he left and charmed him with my tongue; I let her kill him while he was helpless.
    • We arranged it such that his apprentice Tarik was arrested for his murder. He was hanged two days later; I stayed home and carved a beautiful wooden fox for Juliana as a gift.
  • I am approached by an immortality-seeker. Apparently, one of his ancestors had met me briefly before he was imprisoned and wrote in his journal about the scoundrel with white eyes who left him to rot. He put two-and-two together and found me. I have told him I will consider it. In the meantime, a governor under my heel is a valuable and willing servant.
    • I allow Giuseppe to drink periodically of my blood. It does not turn him, not without me draining him first, but it seems to protect him from disease and extend his life and health. In return, he is aware that he owes me greatly and keeps me a private matter, a secret away from nosy politicians.
  • Walking by the great whaling ships docked in the harbor, I reflect that I barely recognize all the implements the sailors are using to unload their massive hauls of meat. Technology has certainly changed over the centuries.
    • The alchemists of this age speak even more in tongues than of old. “Atoms” and “ions.” It is no longer something understandable like mixing gunpowder. They conjure lightning out of strange metal and glass contraptions, trap it and call it electricity. They write numbers and symbols and equations and declare they have found universal truths of the world. I hire a tutor for Juliana and me, to teach us the basic sciences as they call it. Chemistry is fascinating, I create a small lab and dabble with experiments in an amateur fashion.
    • I sold my fishing knife to generate enough cash to supply the chemistry lab, and I bought a new ‘electric light’ as well. The burning of magnesium and the flare of the arc lamp are such different -colors- than fire and candelight – it is like wondrous daylight.
  • I attacked Larisa with a sword and cut off her left hand. I was in a rage. I had forgotten something important to me and was telling her my vague hunches on what it could have been, when she dared to suggest that I might have been mistaken and confused a story for the humans with one of my actual memories. How dare she. I know what’s real. She escaped, hissing with anger herself. I think we are no longer friends again.
    • Jihan finds me in my shop and telephones me and tells me I owe her for heading off Larisa’s plan of revenge to burn down the shop with me inside it. She’s changed. She still looks so young, but her eyes are no longer innocent. Guilt takes me. I play the reed pipe for her one last time and give it to her, along with the shop. She’s right, I need to leave, I am too easily found and Larisa will give up burning the shop down if I am no longer in it.
    • One night, just before dawn, as I leave the shop to head home, Larisa finds me. She sneers at my cushy comfortable situation and mocks my ‘complete lack of sense’ as she calls it, to run the same antiques shop gimmick of old. Trapped away from my modern gadgets and allies, she overpowers me and stakes me, leaving me out to greet the sun. In the minutes away from my destruction, I can only hope and pray that Juliana might escape or be spared.

My Diary – a folio with four sheets of parchment contained within:

  • ______, a Christian soldier, comes across one of my _______ in their shallow grave. He rouses some of his comrades to hunt me. I hide from them under one of the ______, they do not realize that I do not need to breathe.
  • The hunters are resolute trackers and pick up my trail again. Robert brandishes a cross at me, which flares up in a blinding light that bleaches my eyes. I am forced to flee and only lose them in the floodplains. In my time spent hiding, the Turkish name for the yellowlegs birds give me an idea to change my identity and become Saribacak, a Turk.
  • Two decades later, I chance across Robert in an inn. He does not recognize me, but the pain of my unsated vengeance and logical reasoning drives me to bloodthirsty murder. It closes a loose end and keeps me safe.
  • Erik gives me my fishing knife after I won a bet with him; he claims he made it but it’s too well-made, I suspect he stole it from his master, so I keep it hidden on land and use it only while on the boat.
    • I walked into a trap intended to catch brigands when I took advantage of a stopped caravan to feed on a sentry. They execute me for highway robbery, having mistaken my fishing knife as evidence of violent intent, with my own blade. Lying there, faking my death as a corpse, I contemplate my folly – I would be suspicious of too good to be true circumstances from now on.
  • I survived the siege of Antioch, though many others died, but it was during the plague which followed that one of the minor knights, stuck in the city due to his squabbling leaders, cornered me in one of the city’s darker alleys one night – I never knew his name, nor stood a chance.
  • Her name was Maria, she was an abbess. I made the mistake of gazing into her eyes, sinking into pools of abyssal midnight. When I next came to myself, she was gone, along with my bracelet, leaving me with the bitter lesson about the eyes of a vampire.
  • With Constantinople’s fall, I became a Turk again, a treasure hunter of old antiquities. I set up a shop and pointed adventurous folk to various historical battlegrounds to retrieve potential items of value. One night, -she- walked in. Maria. No longer an abbess. No longer Maria. Larisa. She knew me, and I her. After a brief exchange, where she offered me some old coins, we parted on… less hostile terms.
  • I am forced to flee Florence when a vampire hunter named Sophia, apparently a descendant from someone I  had met once long ago, locates me by the mark of my white eyes. She had traced me through history using that as a clue, a marker that I was the same person. I let her feel the cobra gaze of it for a moment, stunning her and leaving her vulnerable, but I sensed others converging and fled before I had time to do more.
  • My last vision of Florence was the city’s skyline, domes, grand architecture and all, tinged pink with false dawn, before I sank down in my coffin and pretended to be a corpse, awaiting shipment to Prato.

Forgotten Memories:

  • I narrowly escaped being arrested as a smuggler while paying for board and passage on a smuggler’s boat. I had to commandeer the boat and sail it downriver myself, while the owner and captain, William, was being detained on the docks by law enforcement.
  • One night, sitting by the firelight, I pick up a stray piece of broken firewood and find myself absent mindedly carving a small wooden goat with my fishing knife. It’s surprisingly good for a first attempt.
  • During the Renaissance, I wrote a historical, scholarly manuscript examining in detail other scribes’ records of the Crusades and the Ottoman empire, relentlessly demarcating the line between fact and fiction. I should know. I was there. I know what was real.
    • I hire a reputable architect to create a copycat of the Brunelleschi Dome, in miniature form, in stone and marble, underground in as cold and dry a location as I can find. I leave my manuscript inside, and seal it up.
  • Someone I knew once was a scholar of some repute, it strikes me as a worthwhile path to follow; I convert to Christianity and learn Latin and record-keeping at a monastery.
  • A scholar historian named Mark visited my shop of antiquities, he had a family tree of his ancestors from the first and second Crusades and was trying to trace their path. One of them was a soldier named Robert, whom I recognize from my diary. I remember. I remember those days and wanted to prove it. So I showed him the page and told him it was written by a Muslim who lived in those times and who probably was a murderer and criminal.
  • The endless Crusades provide a supply of too many holy warriors keen to expose a monster, a vampire. I flee in search of more peaceful lands, to Greece. I am not familiar with the Greek tongue but it is not dissimilar to my native Armenian,  except a century or two past since I last spoke it. I call myself Aram, and pretend to be a blind, half-deaf woodcarver and slur my words and speak slowly.
  • All night, I tell my shop visitors of the times I spent out on a boat at sea, deep sea diving for old wrecks and retrieving many of the treasures that now stock my shop.

Memories I Tried to Remember On Paper But Discarded Eventually:

I prey on the leavings of the Crusades – pilgrims, refugees, travelers of the road, the odd wounded soldier. Their bodies I hide in shallow cairns off the roads.

It was a particularly miserable rainy day where I suffered earfuls of abuse from Davit forcing me to haul the nets up in the wet soaking weather while he retreated back to the shelter of the boat’s cabin; seeing the sudden gleam of gold amidst the struggling smelly fish was a shock at first – later, I rationalized it as a private gift from God or one of His angels to balance out the scales of the day and hid it with Davit none the wiser.

When I wake up after the knight’s attack, I am confused and distressed. I stumble back to the boat and when Davit begins his usual tirade, I am suddenly filled with rage and hunger. He is no match for me and dies, his throat shredded.

I made my vampire an Armenian after deciding I wanted to start in the era of the Crusades.

Antioch was sacked by the crusaders when an Armenian let them in, whereby they promptly slaughtered Armenian Christian and Muslims alike, not being able to tell them apart. It seemed a particularly ironic backdrop; though I ended up telling a smaller scale peasant’s tale to avoid too much history reading.

Much of the initial characters’ occupations were random rolled on the first list of medieval occupations I googled.

The vampire began in humble beginnings, a mortal boy born of a musician and laudress. He was apprenticed out to a surly fisherman by his layabout musician father.

His treasured possessions were a fishing knife his friend Erik, an apprentice knifesmith, gave him, and a reed pipe he had carved, in the hopes of impressing his father (it didn’t.)

He became a vampire after he was attacked by an unnamed knight crusader and left for dead in an alley. He promptly murdered his fisherman master on returning to the boat full of bloodthirst. (Not much loss there, thought the player. Better than losing his father or his friend – though the father was also considered. A dice roll decided.)

He soon took to the roads to seek his prey. The Crusades were a backdrop and the cities filled with too much violent conflict.

Along the way, he has some encounters:

He meets another vampire, an abbess named Maria, who promptly hypnotizes him and steals a golden bracelet from him.

He makes another vampire, a young goatherd girl named Jihan. (This was inadvertent yet tragic – the first prompt instructed to create a positive memory meeting a young child, hence I threw in innocent reed pipe playing. The very next prompt said I had created a vampire, and I only had so many mortal characters to choose from, aka none except her. Well. Oops.)

He is caught as a brigand and executed with his own knife. He learns that it is easy to fake being a corpse as a vampire.

He is chased and confronted by a Christian soldier who is more savvy of the supernatural occult, and in our first dash of fantasy, we zap our vampire with a new scar that will linger to the end of his days. Decades later, he will kill the soldier in cold blood, for revenge and to tie up a loose end.

He changes his identity and becomes different people. A Turk. A vagrant Armenian woodcarver beggar, when he leaves the war torn country for Greece.

A Turk again a century later, when he returns to the continent to set up an antiquities shop. He is found by both Jihan and Maria (now named Larisa), immortals in their own right, having their own lives.

(It is interesting that I as the player did my best to cling on to memories of both vampires, choosing to forget mortals over losing track of them. I had a subconscious sense they might be more significant as I might have greater chances encountering them over the centuries. In so doing, I recreated the trope of the immortal vampire that thinks very little of brief mortal human lives.)

He makes up with Larisa, briefly. For a short time, they will be friends. Perhaps even lovers in the night. Then one night he loses control of himself when reminded of his tendency to forget and confuse memories and makes a mortal enemy of her. It will eventually be his undoing.

He meets his end in the 19th century in Italy, just as fortune and fate seemed to be finally going right for him. He met and made a new immortal love, was filthy rich, with hooks into a government official. He embraced the modern technology of that age and was getting a second wind of enthusiast fascination, when Larisa finally takes him out.

(His ending was a little surprisingly abrupt, but somehow satisfying. As if vampiric machinations behind the scenes finally catch up to him while he’s off being careless in romantic lala-land.)

Diary-wise, it was a bit of a challenge to decide what to store within. They were memories I kinda wanted to keep, but also knew I might have to be okay with losing, if I ran into a Prompt that made me lose the Diary.

So they ended up being semi-significant events. I escaped Diary loss for the most part, only rolled one prompt that asked me to take out three nouns from the earliest entry. Whichever nouns I took out, I felt like the overall meaning was still not really lost.

I feel like I got quite lucky this round with the Memory discards. Many were no longer useful by the time it came to make room for newer Experiences and Memories.

I was told to make up a fake memory – the deep sea diving one – and then in the next couple of prompts, it was time to toss out a memory, and it certainly seemed unimportant to cling on to.

I had to alter one memory to introduce an anachronistic device. I used the shared theme of the antiquities shop. Jihan actually came to him in the first shop. I tweaked the memory to make it a telephone call in the second shop.

In retrospect, it seems almost like a prophecy of forewarning. It could very well have been that his slightly warped memory made him exit his second shop in a hurry, yet carelessly enough that Larisa catches him unawares.

Mildly surprising was this theme of woodcarving that ran through his life, that he kept forgetting consciously, though his hands remembered.

He was first a woodcarver in his Greece vagrant days, which he promptly forgot because, eh, why would you want to remember a hard life of being a beggar anyway?

Then a prompt asks for him to give rise to a positive memory of “creative expression” and I make up this vague memory of “first time” woodcarving. It’s not, but he doesn’t remember. So his result surprises him.

…Then he promptly forgets that -that- ever happened as well.

Yet he’s still woodcarving as a hobby by the 19th century – though it’s now to the sinister backdrop of him being soullessly uncaring about having framed some innocent apprentice for a murder he and his wife committed.

I got lucky with Prompts and managed a grand history heist with Skills and Resources. He takes up scholarly pursuits after meeting a scholar descendant of the Chrstian soldier who pursued him (he promptly forgets most of these mortals over time as well.)

He gets a I Know What Is Real and Visionary skills from various prompts, and I tie that to his antiquities and scholarly stuff to have him essentially create a time capsule to preserve a valuable historical treatise that he wrote.

Over several lucky prompts, he retrieves the treatise a century or two later, and uses it to start his second shop, before he promptly forgets the source of where it all came from. (Presumably he just thinks he owns a super valuable historical treatise now, and forgot that he himself wrote it.)

Another interesting object to trace through time is his fishing knife. He clings on to it for -ages-, presumably polishing and taking significant care of it through the centuries.

I am finally forced to let it go with a valuable antique Prompt that demands the exchange of the vampire’s oldest Resource for two conventional Resources. Undeniably, that’s what it is.

So he finally parts with that old part of himself, and trades its value for two modern fascinations – a chem lab for his new hobby-academic pursuit, and an electric arc lamp that is bright enough to simulate daylight – which he probably hasn’t seen for centuries. Fair deal, as it goes, I think.

Sophia, by the way, is descended from William, the smuggler captain he screwed over by making off with his boat and leaving him to get imprisoned. He has no idea about this, as he has quite forgotten it ever happened. In any case, he probably outlived her.

He just couldn’t outlive the wrath of an immortal woman scorned. Such is life. Or undeath.

(Edit: Oh, hang it all and confound it. I, the player, have confused myself. Sophia is the descendant of Mark, the scholar historian, descended from Robert the soldier. Giuseppe is the one related to William the smuggler. Little wonder why vampires forget. I, the player, can’t even keep my stories straight two days later… What does this tell us about memory, the unreliable narrator?)

I wonder if Thousand Year Old Vampire would work again if I swapped characters to one of the other immortals and traced -them- through time?