Vigil is a game set in an alternate 1970, where a team of superheroes fights to protect their home, the growing European metropolis of Arcadia.
History diverges from our own in April, 1945. In the final days of World War II, the Third Reich uses their advanced occult technology in a desperate gambit against the surging Allied forces. In their haste, the Nazis inadvertently summon a colossal monster from an alien dimension. The beast attacks Allied and Axis forces alike, leaving utter destruction in its wake. In response, the United States and Britain decide to unleash the power of the Manhattan Project on this new threat, and while the resulting atomic explosion destroys both the creature and much of Berlin, it has a profound, unforeseen aftereffect: A mysterious shock-wave that envelops the globe, killing millions and fundamentally altering millions more.
This event will come to be known as The Havock.
The next five years are chaos. The twentieth-century’s promise of a global civilization, including advances in global communication, are dashed by the sudden world-wide unrest. Alliances are broken; nations with intact governments turn inwards, and those without devolve into anarchistic nightmares.
By 1970, Europe is a very different place…
In the east, the USSR has consolidated its influence and resources, emerging as a military superpower…
In the south, a new Holy Roman Empire is born: the Pope, convinced that the Havock is a herald of Armageddon, has instituted a Crusade of Conversion to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ…
In the west, the chaos of post-war France produces a tyrant driven to restore the ancient Celtic Empire of Gaul…
In the north, a new British Empire rises from the ashes of the blitzkrieg. As part of its imperial expansion, the Crown annexes and reorganizes the land formerly known as Germany into the territory of Avalon; at the heart of this new colony rises its capital, the city of Arcadia.
Of geography and politics, however, neither are the most important development in the past twenty-five years. While a full understanding of the Havock remains elusive, millions of people have undergone a mutation of some kind as a result of the shock-wave that ended the second Great War. These individuals are referred to originally as ‘mutants’ and more recently as ‘paranormals.’ The supernatural changes in each paranormal are as variable as there are individuals in the world. Some changes have produced physical deformities, mental abilities, energy-based powers, hyper intelligence— the list in innumerable.
With the emergence of a paranormal population, however, comes a societal backlash from those humans who remain unaffected. Despite this, the persecution is not universal, and neither is the method of oppression. There are several places where paranormals are accepted and welcomed into society; in fact, one of the founding principles of Arcadia is to serve as a place where humans and paranormals can co-exist for the betterment of all. Unfortunately, the reality there is quite a bit less idealistic…
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Havock, a small group of individuals decides to take a stand: to protect their city from any threat, to improve the lives of paranormals and humans alike, and to transform Arcadia into the shining example it was always meant to be.
Their creed is: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
They are Arcadia’s silent, secret guardians.
They are Vigil.
Setting and Tone
My plan for Vigil is to primarily focus on the city of Arcadia. That’s not to say that your characters will never travel outside of the city, but you should expect the majority of the game to remain inside city limits. This is mainly because Arcadia will see the most development prior to the game beginning in an effort to make the city feel more alive. As we play more and begin to better establish the setting, more detail will come, both for Arcadia and the larger world; because of that, my plans might change, but keep your expectations in check on that front!
Arcadia is a relatively new city; in fact, in 1970, it is not even fully completed! Briefly, construction of Arcadia begins in April 1951, and by 1960 local populace is already beginning to filter in. The ten years leading up to game start are spent building up the city’s five districts. There will be more detail to come in the wiki sections devoted to Arcadia; regardless there will be plenty of time and room to fit your characters into the setting.
Where Vigil’s “tech level” is concerned, keep in mind that technology stagnated for a time as a result of the Havock. Therefore, even though the game is set in 1970, you should expect a tech level closer to that of the early 1960s: rotary-dial phones; big, rounded-rectangle cars; typewriters; the copy-machine is a brand-new product; trains, buses, airplanes, and zeppelins (because zeppelins are cool!); radio, vinyl records, black-and-white TV (though color is coming!), and film; newspapers and telegrams; Polaroid cameras; etc.
No cordless phones, no cellphones, no internet, etc. In general, there are no computers, and even if they do exist they are primitive, exceptionally rare, most likely owned by governments, and completely alien to your characters.
As far as a visual tone, I’m imagining a noir, art deco style for Arcadia. Think Rapture from Bioshock or the Paul Dini Gotham City from Batman: The Animated Series. Here are a few examples, and I’m sure you can find more with some clever searching on Google Images.
Along with the visual tone, I think it’s appropriate to talk about the emotional tone of this game. I expect that there will be some humor involved in Vigil, as in all of our games (it’s just who we are!), but my hope is that this game will have an overall feel of seriousness. Make no mistake, this will at times be a dark game. Arcadia is built on the ruins of Nazi Germany, so be prepared for subject matter pertaining to the war to present itself from time to time. I know it’s cliché right now to have grim-dark superheroes, but in all honesty, I think it works well. The concept of superpowers and superheroes is pretty ridiculous if it isn’t grounded somehow. You will be playing extremely powerful characters— but that power isn’t without cost or consequence. Your characters will have weaknesses, in terms of your powers, in terms of the people in your life that you care about… and perhaps in terms of the city itself. Ultimately, we will all have a part to play in defining the tone of our game, but this will be my base assumption.
Speaking of your characters, now is as good a time as any to discuss what kind of characters you should be designing for Vigil. Obviously I’m not going to tell you what characters to play, but I am going to provide both guidelines and restrictions on the types of superheroes that will be allowed:
- Your characters must have some tie to the city of Arcadia. It can be in your background or something happening at game start, but there should be a compelling and meaningful reason for your character to be in the city. Vigil will give your characters some additional degree of purpose in the game, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus of your characters’ lives.
- Your character’s power-set must be thematically uniform and consistent. In addition, it must remain at a relatively moderate level of expertise/strength. The general rule of thumb here is to think more Spider-Man, Cyclops, Human Torch (Marvel), and less Superman, Batman, or Green Lantern (DC). More specifically, you may not have a power-set that allows you to do everything— Batman has infinite wealth, and so can create any device or plan; Superman is essentially a god that can do any and everything as the plot allows; Green Lantern’s ring allows him to conjure anything, and his imagination is the only limit on what his power can allow him to do. Do not do this.
- The reason for this is that your characters must be able to work as a team. This is an occasional point of contention for our group, but I can’t stress it enough: do not double up on your powers or roles in the party, and do not intentionally overshadow any of the other PCs! If your character can do everything, I will not allow it in the game. You must have holes in your abilities that your allies can supplement. To go back to the Marvel/DC analogy, I’m thinking more X-Men or Avengers, less Justice League. A particularly poignant example would be from the recent Avengers film (if you haven’t seen it, I’m almost going to require it before we start Vigil): In the final battle in NYC, watch how the various members of the team utilize and combine their strengths as they provide cover for their weaknesses. This is what I want for this game, so keep it in mind as you design your characters!
If I sound like I’m being a hard-ass about this, it’s only because a superhero game has to have effective, balanced characters, or the whole thing comes crashing down— more so than perhaps in any other genre! Please talk with me if you have any questions about your characters and their designs/origins/etc.; and better yet, talk with each other to ensure that you’re building a compelling and exciting team!
In this final section, I want to go over some other logistical expectations that I have for the game:
- Obviously, the above overview is only a taste of the greater campaign’s detail. Over the coming months I will be continually updating this Obsidian Portal site with more information about the city of Arcadia, the greater world, and the history that brought us from WWII to Vigil. There is already some initial information and flavor on the wiki, but if you have any questions about anything related to the campaign, and you don’t yet see it here on OP, don’t hesitate to ask me personally and I’ll get back to you with an answer. I don’t expect you to go into everything blind, but understand that the detail will be here before the game begins!
- Before we begin Vigil, each player must produce an extensive background for their character. I’m not going to put any hard limits one way or the other on how much you should be writing for this, but keep in mind that these background serve two purposes: First, as a way for you to begin detailing and connecting with your character; Second, as a vehicle for plot hooks for me, the GM. This is a new genre for me to be running, and I’m going to need all the help I can get! I will of course have overarching plots going on in the game, and what we do in our sessions will add to that significantly, but I’m expecting that most of the early nitty-gritty stories will come directly from material that you write as part of your backgrounds. If I don’t have those materials, you don’t have a game to play, so don’t skimp on them!
- Your character must have a character portrait. As this is a comic-book style supers campaign, I’m hoping that you choose art/photos (unaltered or photoshopped) that have multiple variants so I can use them for “covers” and the like. For instance, Alon has chosen Selene from the film series Underworld to represent Shadowlark, so there’s plenty of images out there for me to work with. Of course, if you can’t find something suitable online, remember that Alon is an artist, and perhaps he might be willing to tackle your character art…
- I will be expecting that you all produce something in between sessions. I haven’t decided exactly what form(s) that something will take, and I will let you know as we get closer to game start, but I want to get that out there early. Because Savage Worlds is a tightly regulated level-based system – something that GURPS most definitely is not – it’s not as easy for me to say “Do a journal and I’ll give you XP!” because XP is not going to be given out as freely as it might be in GURPS. Savage Worlds does have some additional reward types, but I’m not completely pleased about what’s offered. Regardless, I’ll provide more information about inter-session writing in the near future!
- I guess I should reiterate my stance on tabletop RPG systems/rules at this point. I understand that rules and mechanics systems have their place in creating characters and resolving action in the game; that said, I’m definitely not a fan of them in general. My interest in playing and running RPGs is in the characters and the story. If the rules would at any time get in the way of that in a bad way, I will not hesitate to throw them out the window. That goes for and against the PCs, in case you’re wondering. With this in mind, I will not allow rules arguments as part of this game. I have no problem with someone coming to me in between sessions and talking about rules questions/problems, but it will not be during the session itself— I will shut that kind of thing down! In the end, remember this: I will never, ever, do anything in the game with the expressed purpose of fucking with my players. That doesn’t mean I won’t fuck with my players’ characters, because of course all good dramatic tension comes from that sort of thing. But I want you all to keep in the back of your mind the idea that this is not an antagonistic relationship between Players and GMs. The game only survives as long as everyone is having fun— so if something happens in the game that upsets you, just remember that it’s happening for a reason!
The purpose of this Campaign Contract is to give me an opportunity to introduce you to Vigil, my expectations of you, and my style of GM’ing tabletop games. The final thing is, as you might expect, that this game isn’t solely mine. We are all involved in the success or failure of Vigil. This contract is only the beginning, and I invite you all to use the corresponding forum thread to continue the conversation. In addition, I am always available via email or IM should you have something to ask or discuss that you want to keep discreet.
I hope that this page will be useful to you as you begin to create your characters and prepare to dive into the world of Arcadia and Vigil— the time is now!
Further information about custom changes to the Savage Worlds system and House Rules can be found here.