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New Player Advice
By Mark Zohn

Well, I have been playing for more than a year now, and have been reflecting on what I have learned and what I have enjoyed at AIT. I have moved up through most of the stages now, from ghoul to Primogen, and still remember how confusing everything was at first, even with friends playing and trying to help me. In the spirit of helping new players, I thought that I would put down some advice for those just starting out, to help them get the most out of the game. Remember, this is just my opinion and others' may vary, but I will do my best to help. I will not give much advice on character creation, beyond some generalities, as that is really subjective, and is something that the ST's can help with.

Before the game

Once you have decided to play, sign up on the mailing list. Just a general letter to the list can help you get started, getting people to know who you are, and can also serve as an aid if you aren't sure what you want to play. People can tell you some possibilities for playing, and can even bid for your services. Heading to the Red Light Café on a Tuesday night, after you've arranged to meet some people, is a good way to mingle early as well. Meet, greet, talk to ST's and learn who needs what, before the night of the Gathering. This should help you decide on what sort of character you wish to play.

Once you have established your character, contact the Primogen of your Clan. By doing this before the game, they will be better prepared to get you going that night, with introductions and such. This lets you fit better into the Chronicle, as they will be able to spread some background on you. An interesting person will be looked for at the game, and this means more chances to meet people and get things done.

On the actual night of the Gathering, try to get to the game early, and help set up. It gains you additional XP, and people appreciate the help, and will be more kindly inclined towards you. There can be a lot of work involved in getting the Arts Exchange ready for the game (just ask Julian about the Anubis Club) and the quicker it gets done, the sooner you can start the game. This gets you a little time to mingle, also, and meet more people before everything starts.

Items for the game

Every player should have a notebook and pen, but this is especially true for a new player, as they have even more things to learn and remember than someone established. This notebook should be an Out Of Game item (a physical representation of the stuff your character would remember) which cannot be stolen. It is used to record your observations, and the names of the many people you will meet, as well as any other important notes such as contact information and meeting times. For such meeting times, a watch is a very good idea, so that you can be at various meetings or required appearances, and also know when the game is over. A flashlight can be very useful, as areas outside the Arts Center can be quite dark. Some sort of food and drink for the city is a good idea- providing others with such things, at the communal area, gives additional XP.

It truly adds to the environment and enjoyment of the game if you come in costume. You get more into character, and become more distinctive, with people recognizing you and so involving you more. Note that if you actually wear a trench coat, then you get to hide trench-concealable items beneath it. Good sources for various costume items, cheap, are thrift stores, which can have some interesting things just to add flavor. Makeup can be effective, and certainly doesn't have to be elaborate. There are basic makeup kits available at most costume shops, as well as books on how to do it. There are also people at the Game who can help you with such things in the future, which may be necessary if you need something elaborate like a Nosferatu face.

Player Goals

You need to decide what you, the player, want to get out of the game, what would make it an enjoyable evening for you. That could be anything from getting to hang out with your friends, to meeting new people, to getting your character killed dramatically. What you would enjoy doing is the thing. That way, when you walk away at the end of the evening, you have some way of deciding whether you want to come back, and of giving feedback to the ST's other than something like it was cool or it sucked. What your goals are for enjoyment will also help you determine what kind of character to develop, especially whether you want to build someone violent, or more social. There is not necessarily a split with these: a combat Brujah can also go talk to people and be social, especially if they have an agenda. And a Toreador Socialite can also have skills useful in combat, like sending half the opposing forces running screaming with a Dread Gaze. But, generally, you want to have someone that fits your primary goals.

Character Goals

Once you know what you want out of the game, then you can design a character to help fulfill those goals- a fast talker, a brute, a lunatic, what have you. Once you have your concept, and have fleshed it out with numbers and had the ST's approve, then comes the time at the game to actually play it. What you need is to decide the short term goals for your character for the evening. They could be very simple, like meet three new people or fight someone in combat, or more complex, such as gain access to power and influence in your Clan. By setting goals, you give yourself purpose, and keep yourself from falling into the trap of sitting around waiting for someone to come up to you and tell you what to do. Because this is not a tabletop game, it is not as structured with a Storyteller always guiding you and your friends through narrow choices of a preplanned scenario. Instead, there is almost any goal you want out there, and even if you don't know how to achieve it, at least you have something that you want and can explain when you speak to someone who can help you.

Spending XP

This is a tough decision, as to whether to invest points in a character, and is one that you should have some idea about when you first start them. Remember that you are just trying this game out at first and may not really know what you want. As such, every point that you commit gets quartered (you lose 1/4 XP) if you decide that you want to try something new, so putting points in can make future characters weaker. Also, if you know before you start that this is just a trial character, like a ghoul, then you can build it accordingly, without much growth potential, but competent with the current power. However, if there is a concept to which you are attached, and you want to try it right away, leave yourself some room for growth. Make it an 11th Gen Kindred instead of 13th: less powerful at the time but with more growth potential. Alternately, make yourself a useful ghoul that can get embraced to a better Gen, which also gives you motivations to please your master, so that they are willing to do the necessary work to get permission from the Prince to embrace you.

Ghouls

Ghouls have a number of weaknesses- they have fewer disciplines than Kindred, and they need a master to feed them every month or they are destroyed. They are also not respected, but are seen as property with no rights but the ones their master can defend. However, their loyalty and access to those in power who can show them the ropes makes them an interesting choice to play at first. Just note that if you intend to play a ghoul and later get embraced, the only things that you can change are your disciplines. All attributes, abilities and influences and other places you might have spent points stay the same. The kindred you become will be clearly the same person as the ghoul you were.

There are pretty much three types of ghouls. First, there are the physical ghouls. These are the ones designed for combat, which is the ghouls' area of disciplines. They start with two fewer disciplines and so are less powerful than Kindred, and also have lower potential bids than an 11th Gen or better, but they can get all the nasty combat abilities in-Clan.

Second, there are the influence ghouls. These have put all their points into influences, and can spend them on their own behalf or on that of their master. They are easier to kill, and can be embraced by rivals who covet their wealth, but they can be useful to their master and so rewarded, whether that be with money, goods, or eventually embrace.

Finally, there is the occultist ghoul. This is a ghoul that has taken their points and dedicated them to the learning of rituals, as well as to gathering occult influences. They can be quite valuable in providing their master a powerful tool, as well as more resources for their own research, but also cannot defend themselves, and can be the target for elimination by rivals.

Respect

Face it, a new player stands little to no chance against a more experienced character, and a properly designed Elder can hold them off by the dozen. What this means is that a new character not showing respect to their Elders is looking to get killed. Normally, players will not whack a new player's character the first night. However, all bets are off when some newbie begins mouthing off to the powers that be. Even if you are playing the loudest Brujah Anarch, and yelling at a Gangrel Primogen is well within your character concept, if your character has any survival instinct, they will limit whom they rage against, and whether they have back-up when they do it. If not, then don't cry when you get whacked, take it as a learning experience. A neonate should show respect to their Elders out of fear if nothing else.

Usefulness

One great way to get involved in things is to make yourself useful to the Primogen or Elders of your Clan. This can be done in many ways, from offering to run messages, to taking accurate notes, to going out as a strong man for them. The methods employed will vary between character and Clan, but by doing so, you get someone powerful, who can aid you in your goals that you established, to want to help you. Also, as they are long-standing players, they will likely have more of an idea of what's going on, and so more things for you to do, as well as knowing all sorts of people to introduce you to, and having equipment to start you off.

Always go to your Clan for simple things like cheap armor and guns. In all likelihood they either have some lying around, or know where they can get some cheap. For better equipment, you will have to provide better service, either to them or to those who have it. Whether that's spying, bodyguarding, recruiting or what have you, your services can earn you things that your few influences will be unable to buy. Not that those influences, even if you only have three, are useless. They provide another means of gaining prestige and favors from those more powerful than you. You can sell them to a broker, making yourself a profit, or donate them to the Clan, which gets you kudos, or trade them for other equipment or services, over a longer period of time. In any case, those influences are another asset, and one you didn't have to spend any points on.

Overall, your greatest asset as a new player providing services to those who are established is reliability. If you are someone who will be there consistently, and do what you say you will do, you are a valuable asset even without great powers, and will earn respect from those who matter. Of course, conversely, you had better live up to their trust, or you may find yourself shut out, or eliminated if too inconvenient. Constantly causing problems for others to clean up is not a good way to endear yourself to them.

Groups

This is not a safe world. It is very easy to get killed, either by other players or by NPC's, and at the beginning, you are at the bottom of the food chain. Yes, this is supposed to be an Elysium without violence, but for most players that seems to mean it's time to do violence but not get caught. This is because in a tabletop game, there are plenty of times to interact that are not on Elysium grounds, and so potential for violence, which is not the case at AIT. Also, the hordes of NPC Sabbat and such could care less about the concept of Elysium. All in all, it's amazing that Kindred show up to these things where they can get killed instead of hiding from all their rivals.

However, no matter how dangerous the situation, there is strength in numbers. First, you may be part of a coterie, your friends who all decided to play together for support and may be playing any number of Clans . By sticking together, you can avoid being picked off- you are a less appetizing target if you look dangerous. Second, especially if you don't know anyone else playing, you can be in a group with Clanmates, once you are introduced to them by the Primogen. By working with them, you develop a bond, and a relationship that results in influence within the Clan. These groups can provide skills and capacities that, in addition to protecting you, also make you attractive to use in offensive operations, in other words to do stuff for people. That provides you with entertainment, and also with wealth.

Lurkers

The idea of being the lone wolf, hidden from everyone by a Cloak, that no one can speak to and no one even knows is present, can be a seductive one. Watch out, because it can be a trap. Yes, it's nice to be able to spy, but a lot of the fun of the game is interacting with others even if that is not the image of Vampires that is popularly portrayed. If you put yourself beyond that then you are missing out on a big dimension of the game. The ability to talk and scheme and fight with others is the entire point of having such a massive Gathering. You could sit around and not talk to people anytime, this is a different opportunity.

Also, as a single person, you have much less chance of getting anything done, while acting with a group can be much more productive. Spy if you want to, but use the information to sell to others or otherwise interact with them, teasing them with hints of your knowledge. And also remember that spies can get caught, and there can be rather deadly consequences for those who are, so if you don't develop allies to cover for you, you may just disappear one night, and no one will ever know or care. Take those abilities and use them in social ways, and you will have a much better time.

After the game

After the game, that night, it is very helpful to also help with the breakdown. This often requires more people working, as there is often the time pressure of the Exchange staff trying to force us quickly out of the building, and is also worth XP. People then usually stand around chatting, including some of the ST's (if they are not about to collapse) and this is another good way of talking to them about what you liked or didn't like about the game, and what they or you could do differently in the future.

Finally, always turn in a downtime. Even if you have almost no time, and you aren't doing anything real, send something to the ST's stating that you were there, and what XP earning things you did. It's a minimum of .5XP just for sending it, plus another .5XP for being under 20 XP, and is also necessary for getting points from bringing food or drink, and any setup or breakdown done. Don't just toss those points away. It is also worthwhile to spend some time working on a good background for your character. A good one can earn up to 3XP for you. That's an entire month's experience, and more than some people earn, for working out a background that will help you add interest to your character anyway.

Well, that's pretty much my thoughts on the matter, and I hope that they are useful to anyone wanting to try out AIT.

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