Pilot p1

posted by Captain Hats Original SA post

Let's talk about White Wolf for a bit, shall we?

See, they're getting a lot of flack in this thread for some of the shit in World of Darkness. Kindred of the East and its casual racism, Blood Dimmed tides and its poor editing and questionable decisions, Changing Breeds and its... everything. But back in the mid 90s? They were living high on the hog. The World of Darkness was successful beyond their wildest dreams, D+D was collapsing, everything was looking up. Vampire: The Masquerade was their flagship game and they wanted to capitalize on it. What better way than a TV show?

Kindred: The Embraced was released in 1996, a full year before Buffy the Vampire Slayer got its start as a TV show. It only lasted one season, mostly due to the death of one of the leads in a motorcycle accident. Had he lived, they would have gone on to season 2, so it was apparently at least not a complete disaster. It's not a bad vampire show, but it's not the most well known thing in the RPG world (I've met die hard OWoD fans who've never even heard of this, let alone seen it) and it does deviate from Vampire RPG canon in a few major ways, for mostly resonable reasons. Let's take a look at episode 1, shall we?

We begin with a flyover of the San Fransisco skyline, as you can see above, while the music starts out weird and tense, then a saxophone plays and makes everything sound sexy and jazz-ish. Eventually the camera pulls in to a warehouse roof, where two figures in suits are chasing a third guy around. Meanwhile, into the warehouse pulls a car, and out come two guys.

This is Frank.

And this is Sonny. They're cops. Frank has received a tip from an anonymous source that the bodyguard of one Julian Luna will be at this location at this time, and he is intent on nailing Luna. Sonny exposits that Luna is "The Boss of Bosses" and that Frank is now dating Lunas former lover, who Frank is apparently head over heels in love with. No word on whether or not Frank has been called a "Loose Cannon" or been asked to turn in his badge, but I think we can safely assume it. Back on the roof, the two suited guys are holding down the other man, who we can now see is a scraggly looking guy with a leather jacket. One of them rips an aerial from its housing in a convenient and not at all symbolic cross shape, proclaims "This is what the Brujah Clan is going to do to all of you Gangrels!" and shoves it through the guys chest. Frank and Sonny burst onto the roof weapons drawn after an aside where Frank comments that Sonny always thinks he's too tough to die when a firefight breaks out, and start threatening the two Brujah. The suited guys walk away, and jump off the warehouse. When Frank looks over the edge... they've vanished! Then this happens:

Yeah, Mr. Gangrel spontaneously combusted. Wonder why that could be! He then gets his only line: "Tell my Prince, I told them nothing, I gave them nothing. And now I am free." He says this in a remarkably lucid fashion for someone who is half on fire, then he dies.
Cut to the coroners office. The coroner is initially skeptical at them not finding any accelerant, then after them telling him this fact again is utterly fascinated by this spontaneous human combustion. He tells Frank and Sonny that he'll need some time before he can confirm that this is Lunas bodyguard, now named as Stevie Ray. The cops exit, Sonny saying that they should drop the case because everything is a bit weird and hey, a guy got staked through the chest and two dudes jumped eight stories down with no bodies left behind, maybe we're in over our heads. Frank counters that there's everyday reasons for this.

Cut to this mansion on the hill, where we're introduced to Julian Luna:

Again, no symbolism here. Luna is being given advice by an older man. Luna is mad because his bodyguard and friend just got staked and killed. The older man tells him to be calm, whoever is behind this is hoping he'll frenzy and make a mistake. Holy shit, actual game mechanics mentioned! For those of you who are unaware, when provoked or presented with blood while hungry, Vampires have a chance of entering frenzy. In this state, they act like animals, lashing out at whatever threats they perceive or just whoever's closest. Having a close associate murdered could definitely provoke a frenzy check, so well done writers, game mechanics integrated smoothly into the story. The older man tells Luna to calm down and let his heart stop. Luna does so, and this happens:

I guess green eyes are the "Vampire Powers Go!" sign in this series. Oh yeah, this is Luna. Luna and older man chat a bit about how there's a traitor, because the cops found Stevies body before it was fully burned up. Also the word "Kindred" gets said with no context. They're being mysterious and doing a big reveal on this whole vampire thing.
Now we cut to a restaurant.

Oooh, who's this? And who is she having dinner with?

Dammit Frank, it's clearly a nice place, do up your tie properly at least. Anyway, Frank and currently unnamed woman talk a bit about how Julian has lots of connections, is a powerful man and so on. Then they start flirting


"I've never been out with a cop before. Do you have a gun?"
"It's in my pants."
The dialogue isn't exactly what you'd call oscar winning. I've been staying away from documenting bad lines or I'd double the size of this review, but this one stands out to me. Frank grips mystery womans hand, and finds that it's very cold. Also that she looks a bit pale there. She comments that it's chilly to cover (Good save vampire lady!), and goes to freshen up in the ladies room.

I couldn't get a good screengrab of it, but brunette lady there is pretty obviously doing some blow. When the entrance is juuuuust off screen to the right there. Extra lady offers some to... blondewoman? I don't know, we don't have a name for her yet. She refuses, locks the door into the entire bathroom after complimenting the brunette's earrings, and then does the green eye thing before we cut to her leaving, and zooming in on her dress where there is a tiny spot of red OH MY GOD HOW UNFORSEEN. Brunette lady then leaves the bathroom and almost faints, commenting that she must have hit her head. The food arrives, Franks squeeze ordered her steak rare. Oh yeah, the dialogue is full of oblique references to the vampires being powerful and being vampires and so on. The happy couple eat, and then head back to... I guess it's the womans apartment since it's coordinated to her outfit. Also there aren't enough venetian blinds casting dramatic noir lighting for it to be Franks.

Huh, I guess he really does keep it in his pants. Anyway, Frank has freaky vampire sex and we get a brief scene of Luna leaving his mansion to go down to the club. Frank and vampire lady slow-dance in a rose garden. He loves her, she loves him, it's all very steamy and makes it perfectly clear that they're very happy with each other. Frank gets a beep (remember beepers?) that Luna has just walked out. He says he has to go, she says to stay away, he asks who she's really protecting before they kiss a bit more.

Huh, so the club is The Haven. That... that's actually pretty clever.

Luna is accompanied by Lily. She's a Toreador, complaining that the Brujah are moving in on her clubs. Luna says to be patient, the Brujah (especially Fiori) will get dealt with soon but they're trying to provoke a clan war, and he can't let that happen. Apparently Fiori controls LA, and now he wants to take SF from Julian. Luna approaches a group of bikers and identifies them as Gangrel. For those of you who are unaware of Vampire and are having a hard time keeping track, we've been introduced to the Gangrel (Bikers and troublemakers), Toreador (Socialites who control clubs and music businesses) and Brujah (Mobsters) clans. In the RPG proper, Gangrels are the animalistic vampires, and bikers make for good urbanized Gangrel. Toreadors are socialite vampires, and Brujah are warrior philosophers who forgot about the philosophy. Mobsters is an alright fit I guess.

This is Cash. He's pissed because Stevie got killed, and isn't very receptive to Luna, along with the rest of the Gangrel. The girl next to him comments that Stevie "Died because the Prince don't know what's going down in the streets". Julian says that they're right and wants a replacement bodyguard, offering Cash the position. Meanwhile, a sinister black car creeps up behind them, the window rolls down and...

Holy shit. Yeah, Julian and the Gangrel get hit by a drive by with a grenade launcher. Whoever is in the car ditches the gun, then Frank and Sonny arrive on the scene.

Dammit Frank, the prime piece of evidence and you go and foul it up. On the part where they're most likely to get fingermarks as well! Luna tells Frank that it was a drive by, Frank says that Luna is losing control over his mobs and that he's going to drag him out and make him pay while Sonny restrains him. Luna drives back to his mansion, and comments to Lily that he has to see "him". Julian then heads down into the basement. He wanders around for a bit and meets this individual.

He has funky earlobes and lives underground, so I guess he's supposed to be a Nosferatu? (For non-vampire nerds: Nosferatu are the vampires from, well, Nosferatu. They're hideous and live even more reclusively than other vampires, and tend to work as information brokers). This guy lives in the princes basement doing oil painting. Julian tells him that he needs him to go and talk to Eddie Fiori, and retrieve Stevie Rays body from the coroner. Also that he slashed up a beautiful painting, but our Nosferatu says that it was horrific. They go up to Julians office to plot and have some wine. Julian then visits Lily in bed.

The 90s did unfortunate things to womens hair, look how much better she looks than when she's being formal. She drinks his blood, they talk a bit about the Masquerade. Apparently Franks lady friend is called Alexandra, and she's skirting the laws of the Kindred by having liasons with him. At this point the old man from before arrives and tells Julian that his human grandchild has just died.

This post is plenty long as it is, so I'll cut here. Next time we'll carry on, with episode 1, part 2.

Pilot p2

posted by Captain Hats Original SA post

White Wolf Presents: Vampire: The Masquerade: Kindred: The Embraced: The Pilot: Part 2

So last time we got halfway through the pilot episode. Frank, professional cowboy cop, has been chasing Julian Luna who he believes to be the head of the mobs in LA, while also dating Lunas former squeeze, Alexandra. Unknown to Frank, both Luna and Alexandra are vampires. Someone named Eddie Fiori and his Brujah buddies are stirring shit up in the vampire community. And Julian has just received news that his grandchild has died. While hugging up to Lilly, head Toreador, on his bed.

Luna says to bring the car around so he can attend the funeral. Lily is puzzled about him having a human grandchild, apparently Luna was married before being turned into a vampire. His wife died giving birth to his first son, and he was embraced (turned into a vampire) shortly after.

Julian pulls away in the car, but stops a few feet outside his mansion because Alexandra is standing there. They talk for a bit, she says she hasn't told Frank about vampires being real. According to Julian, Frank has been told to stand back from investigating Julian, but he hasn't done that. Odds of Frank being called a loose cannon just rose by 13%! Luna is puzzled about what Alexandra sees in him and what she wants with him, even questioning if she's grooming him to be embraced. She says no, she's just fallen in love with Frank. Apparently, despite being a cop, he's managed to keep his Humanity through everything he's seen, and she's hoping that that will help her keep hers.

Actual mechanics time!
Ok, Vampires have a stat called Humanity to represent how, well, human they are. It scales from 10 to 0, 10 being an unnaturally, scarily saintly person while 0 is a degenerate, non-sentient animal acting on base impulses and nothing more. As vampires go through their eternal unlives, their humanity will rise and (much more frequently) fall. Most humans have a humanity of 7, vampires hover around 5 or 6 but as they grow older, it's more and more likely that they will sink to lower and lower humanity scores, due to the nature of vampire society and the continual threat of frenzy. Keeping your humanity up, both in and out of character, is a pretty primary concern of a lot of vampires.

Alexandra says that he's willing to skip town with her, and they'll be out of Lunas hair for good. Luna says that this is a terrible idea, and if you do that you're taking away him being a cop, and what will he be then? "Mine" is Alexandras reply. Luna again says that this is a bad idea, and Alexandra says that he's just trying to dish out vengance against her. Despite the fact that Luna thinking a vampire trying to live a normal life is a bad idea is not wholly stupid. The scene closes with Lily looking down on the pair from the top floor of the mansion.

Then this happens. Basically our Nosferatu is a smooth operator and is leading the race for my favorite character by quite some margin.

Julian then arrives at the family plot. His driver says that he should hurry as it's almost sunup, but he'll wait here until dark for him. The driver then hides in the blacked out limo with his jacket over his head. Julian heads into the cemetery, past his own headstone and to his wifes grave. He speaks to her for a bit, then lies down and melts into the earth over her coffin. This is usually a Gangrel thing, but given that Julian and Stevie were apparently BFFs it's not too much of a stretch that Stevie taught him.

Back to the coroner. Nosferatuman slides back into the cadaver drawer and Frank comes in. The coroner is missing, but there's a moan from one of the autopsy tables! Frank draws his pistol and pulls the cover off to reveal...

Fade to commercial, then it's back in Alexandras apartment where she's waking up, with Frank shaving. He has to go and relieve Sonny soon. He tells Alexandra how good life has been since he met her for a few minutes, then Alexandra brings up his dead wife, which makes him cut himself. She threw herself out of a window a few years back. Frank says there's nothing to discuss, then Alexanda licks the cut on his face, which once she's licked it is no longer there. Alexandra and Frank then talk in a rose garden, and Alexandra expounds upon how they meet here despite being from two different worlds, more veiled insinuations about her being a vampire. She then spots someone watching them across the street. Next scene is her pulling up to Julians house in a white convertible, and kicking the guy out to Julians feet. Julian is referred to as "Prince" for the first time and she drives off in a huff, with the older man who hangs around Julian saying she's gone too far. Also more of Lily watching from a window up top.

Now we cut to Eddie Fiori.

Lily with hairstyle number 3 comes in and asks to do business. She's willing to give Eddies singers dates at her clubs, which she has up and down the coast, if he deals with Alexandra who she regards as a problem.

Now the vampires have a meeting. Eddie says the gangrel were invading his businesses, Cash (Who's now Gangrel Boss) says that he's a liar. Fiori says that Gangrel are lying gypsies who recognize no authority. No Eddie, that's Ravnos, better luck next time. Also he accuses Julian of getting soft for letting Frank investigate them so deeply and Alexandras affair, saying that maybe a new prince is in order, oh, and when pressed he says that he'd be a better prince than Julian. He also says the cops still have Stevies body that they could use to breach the Masquerade. Nosferatu walks in right on cue and dumps the bodybag on the table, saying that the Nosferatu clan remain loyal to the prince. It is decided that Alexandra shall be put to Final Death (Like regular death, only vampires are technically already dead so they have a fancy term for it). They all kiss his hand and then Julian has an aside with Fiori telling him to stop being a dick, or he'll call a Blood Hunt on all the Brujah in the city and devour Fioris blood himself.

Frank and Alexandra can't see each other anymore. It's tearing them apart. Then they fuck and Frank wakes up to find that he can't feel Alexandras heartbeat or pulse. She sits up, and rips her arm open with her thumbnail, then licks it clean to seal up the wound like she did to Franks shaving cut. Frank then sucks up some of the remaining blood, and it's time for the big reveal to Frank that OMG VAMPIRES ARE REAL! Yeah, apparently they can go out in the sun a bit if they've fed recently. This was due to the series lacking the funds to do all the scenes at night, so they had to come up with an excuse. Frank then collapses on the bed in pain, vampire blood (and sex) changes you.

Then Alexandra turns into a (white) wolf and runs away. Frank and Sonny drive down a road together, Sonny saying that Frank is delusional about vampires being real and he should drop it because he's worried about Frank, Frank insisting they are real, otherwise why would a drive by have been done with phosphor shotgun shells. Uhhh...

Shotgun? Really? Juliana and Alexandra have a last farewell, she love Frank and wants to feel like a real woman, he tells her to run from the city, she makes him promise that Frank won't be savaged by presenting a locket that he gave her to him, then she runs away.

And Julian still has feelings for her. Aww. Then we cut to Julian and Lily in bed, which cements Lily as a crazy jealous bitch as she goes on about how she'll make him forget about Alexandra, that he needs her by his side to rule the city, all that kind of stuff. Alexandra runs through the streets being chased by some Gangrel. She gets into a cab, being driven by... the Nosferatu boss, who cuts her throat. He then drives her out to SF bay, dumps her out in the sun, but tells her that "The water is your sanctuary". She starts crawling towards the side of the cliff weakly, while Frank is driving rapidly to the scene, guided by someone using a voice changer like he said his anonymous tipper at the start did. He gets out and yells to her, she gets one last look at him before bursting into flames and jumping into the water.

Or someone throws a burning mannequin off of her jumping spot, the special effects are not great. Oh yeah, and Frank yells "ALEXANDRAAAAAAAAAAA! as this falls into the bay.
Frank is then back at his apartment and he receives a phone call from his anonymous tipper. He calls himself a "lick" says that they're all around him, blah blah blah, oh yeah, and you can find Luna at Alexandras rose garden. And just who is this mystery man who set the entire plot into motion?

Sonny? He's sitting with Fiori talking about taking over the city and wanting Lunas head on a platter for embracing him. While he's with Frank, Sonny has a very typical "Black buddy cop" accent, here he's smooth and refined. Honestly this isn't a bad twist.

Frank and Luna meet in Alexandras rose garden. Apparently drinking a little vampire blood means vampire powers don't work on you. Luna says he's not Franks enemy, Frank swears to kill him anyway and shoots him a couple times. Julian walks away, leaving Alexandras locket behind. Alexandra is seen waking up under the bay, and we close on this shot.

For reference:

So, that was the pilot of Kindred. It's not a bad show, it just takes certain liberties with the source material. Vampire powers seem to be a lot more generalized than in the game, where learning powers outside of your clans three speciality ones was quite hard. We have five clans, Brujah, Nosferatu, Ventrue, Toreador and Gangrel, but are missing two from this particular organization. The Tremere (Vampire Wizards, very insular so their character wouldn't have much to do, plus their powers would eat into the special effects budget) and Malkavians (Do you fancy pitching a show where one of the main characters is forced to have an incurable mental sickness?). Under normal Vampire rules, Frank would now be a Ghoul, addicted to blood and with some low level vampiric powers but no special immunity to them. Also vampires don't get pleasure from sex and it's mostly a chore for them. In this they're shown to like it, heck, Julian and Lily are at it like rabbits. Plus the whole able to go into sunlight thing, but that was due to budget cuts.

Next time the show proper begins. I hope you've been paying attention to everything thats happened in this episode, there may be a test.