Friday, December 2, 2011

RPG Thoughts; The Skinner

I've been thinking about the World of Darkness. Again, its because of the gamer ADD. The thing I keep coming back to is how wonderfully integrated the Classic version is. That integration is never better exemplified then with The Skinner- Samuel Haight.

Haight was unique, he was a Garou with an Awakened Soul, and was a Ghoul with Disciplines. Eek. That's a lot of capital letters, which means that they are specific game terms. To boil it down, he was a Werewolf Mage with Vampire powers! He was the cross over baddies to end all cross over baddies. He represented what each one of the groups absolutely hated. The Skinner appeared as a villain in an adventure for each of the big three games, culminating in the mega-adventure 'Chaos Factor', which was technically a Mage game, but usable by any of the three games. Background wise, he was the big bad of the first editions of the games, and 'Chaos Factor' was (I believe) the last thing released for the first edition.

Samuel Haight, The Skinner, had a wonderful character arc, to be honest. He started out as a normal human who had Werewolf relatives (a Kinfolk). Envious of his Garou cousins, he became a big game hunter, until he got bored with it. Then he moved on to hunting Vampires. Managed to kill one, drink its blood and get some Vampire powers, and learn some Vampire magic (Thaumaturgy). He managed to then learn a bunch of magic rites, one of which would allow him to kill Garou sew their pelts together and become a werewolf himself. Which is what he did in his first appearance in 'The Valkenberg Project'. So a Garou with Thaumaturgy, already pretty dangerous, he then was out and about and managed to kill a Dreamspeaker (Mage shaman) and steal his magic powers. So then he was a Garou with Thaumaturgy and an Arete rating (Mage magic). He then decided to try and become a god and drink the blood of an ancient vampire, which is where his story ended in 'Chaos Factor'.

However, while The Skinner was the in-game big bad, he was also something of an allegory for the players. I think that he was something the designers put in as a teaching tool. There were multiple references in game about hating people telling the designers about their character ('Subsidiaries- A Guide to Pentex' had the most obvious references). The thing is that I think he was created in the very earliest Werewolf supplements when the idea of the crossover game was starting as an allegory of why things work the way they do, and why one groups powers do not cross over to another games' inhabitants. He was designed to be the ultimate piece of cheese, twink, power gamer, meta-thought. He is everything that the designers hated, over the top, power heavy, and had a unique place. Hell, even his name is Haight, which if you say it quickly is a homophone of hate! He was a cautionary tale, if you want to do this stuff, this is where everything ends up.

'Chaos Factor' involved probably the most stated-out character in WoD history, Shaitan, a 4th gen Baali vampire. This thing was basically the Tarrasque of WoD. That was really the only thing that could stop him. No PC had the power to stop something of that magnitude, and the end was a dues ex machina. He blew up and took the ancient Vampire with him. Even when White Wolf published their Armageddon books, the ones that ended the lines of the Classic World of Darkness, they didn't give the stats of anything so powerful. The Skinner, Samuel Haight, was in and of himself a power spiral. Clearly with The Skinner, the fine people over at White Wolf were painting a broad story in strokes of the epic over what NOT to do as a character in the World of Darkness. Which was wonderful, and I wish more games would include this type of in-game lesson. The problem was once the 2nd editions and the revised editions came out, he was regulated to the back story (being dead and all). A piece of game history that should have been remembered and painted across all the games to serve as a warning. He was a sign post saying 'This way lies Madness'.

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