Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

[Vampire: the Dark Ages] In Wounded Avalon, Part I

I’ve not run an RPG for a long time. I’ve not blogged in a long time, either. It’s been years since I did either one with any regularity, and between haemorrhaging motivation for both of them, I’d more or less consigned them to the folder of “Things I used to do before deadlines and parenthood.”

And because it deserves mentioning for relevance even if I’d rather not make a big deal about it, I’ve not been in a particularly great way since Alan died. His absence is still a significant hole in my daily processes, and the wound still rubs raw, bleeding enthusiasm and motivation like two pretentious incarnations of the Hippocratic humours.

Over the course of this year, I’ve started noticing the tail-end of a long-running trend – the less I write for pleasure outside of deadline work, the slower I am when it comes to hitting deadlines. I doubt that’s in any way unique to me, but it was a weird revelation all the same.

So here we are. Inspired one sleepless night by all the recent “I miss RPGs…” temptations coming to a head with a nine-hour insomniac feast of The Gentleman’s Guide to Gaming, I messaged two of my friends that live locally with the simplest yet potentially time-suckiest of offers: “I want to run a Vampire: the Dark Ages game if you’d be up for it?”

They are indeed up for it.

Several of my slightly less local friends asked about me running it on Discord or Skype, and it crushed me to say no, but I really wanted to go face-to-face for this one. The simple physicality of getting up from my desk and having Something To Do that isn’t Write > Sleep > Dad > Paint 40K Scenery… ad infinitum.

I’m rationing the prep work, doing it in instalments (because parenthood, and because deadlines), but I thought it might make a nice intro to blogging again. If you don’t give a shit, all good. We’re still pals. I still love you. You smell nice and I like having you around in case I need to make a kayak out of your bones.

This’ll be a Vampire: the Dark Ages chronicle, which comes with the traditional fare of historical shifts: changes for the sake of narrative; languages that will make native speakers clutch their pearls and whisper they’re getting the vapours; changes because holy shit there are vampires; simple mistakes that no one really cares about so shut up you moon-faced assassins of joy; and no doubt characters espousing some truly shaky and shitty views that, for the record, aren’t my own.


In Wounded Avalon – Part I


“It is the Year of Our Lord 1197, and the Kingdom of England bleeds.

Quod superius, sicut inferius, nei? ‘As above, so below.’ Those words have never been truer. Turmoil grips the mortal throne, and chaos infests the surrounding shadows.

We labour beneath two kings – one foolish, the other wayward. The regent John Lackland, stripped of his domains for his recent treason, is a bitter and useless creature at odds with his vassals and subjects alike. The true king, Richard the Lion-hearted, has endured not only rebellion from his own regent, but defeat in the Holy Land and capture after his losses in war. His precious Third Crusade died outside the walls of Holy Jerusalem.

And yet fresh talk of strife echoes through the halls of the mighty. With the ink still wet on the Treaty of Louviers, greedy hands on both sides of the sea seek to tear the parchment apart. Already the lords of our land brace to resume the eternal war with the mighty Kingdom of France.

Meanwhile, great castles overlook baronies strangled by punishing taxation and wracked by border battles. The peasantry rises up in unprecedented numbers, as the poor of London cache weapons across the great capital and ransack the homes of their betters. Jews are massacred in the streets of our cities, despised for their unchecked wealth and purported heathenry.

But let us look north now. Let us look to our home.

To the Anglii and Saxones tribes, this was once was the town of Eoforwic, a great trading port where their barbarian lords ruled for centuries. To the Danes that followed – be they settler, merchant, or Viking raider with fire and axe in hand – it was the city of Jorvik, the court of their warlord-kings.

And before all others? To those whose tools first worked the earth upon which we now stand? The Romans named this colony Eboracum. Here, the first Christian Emperor of that immortal empire was hailed as master of the known world.

Now, we know it as York.

York, where the influence of the God-Prince Mithras is weak, and a Cainite can carve out an existence far from the reach of the filthy Persian sitting upon the throne of London.

York, where the smell of spilled Jewish blood still stings the senses in shadowed alleyways, and the choral songs of the faithful echo out with the bells from St. Mary’s Abbey.

York, where the blood-heretics of House Tremere, those miserable thieves of immortality, have established a chantry away from the vengeful eyes of the kingly Ventrue and the bitter Tzimisce.

York, where fortunes are made and lost through treachery and usury; where travellers from distant lands are seen every night and day; where trade is life, forever flowing down the River Ouse from the lands of Europe and beyond.

York, where the Cainite descendants of countless invasions prowl the same moonlit paths. Where “English” can mean a Norman blood-drinker mere decades old, a Dane dead for centuries, a Saxon half a millennium out of their grave, a Roman that has called this place home for a thousand years and more, or a Celt that knew this land before humanity had even forged its first iron sword.

Welcome, childe, to York – the second city of poor, wounded Avalon.”

October 28, 2017 - Posted by | Gaming | , ,


  1. Whell, I’m hooked.

    Comment by Alex | October 28, 2017 | Reply

  2. Good to see you blogging again – I lost a friend a couple of years ago and I don’t think I’ll be the same person again.

    That rpg setting is dark, far darker than the original WFRP setting. I look forward to seeing how it progresses. Will you ever finish that ‘choose your own adventure’ series?

    Comment by Steve Willliams | October 28, 2017 | Reply

  3. Great setting and intro. I look forward to reading more.

    Comment by Matt Sutherland | October 28, 2017 | Reply

  4. I grew up on a diet of Old World of Darkness and adore the setting and systems, incl. Dark Ages. Despite thousands of hours reading and fantasising about it I’ve never participated in a game, something that will likely go down as one of my few regrets in life.

    That said, I would uproot my family and forge a new life in Northern Ireland if it meant I could participate in a story led by you Aaron. I’m also very glad to hear you’re taking the appropriate recreational steps to support your mental health, it’s far too easy to get lost in our responsibilities as parents/spouses/employees after personal tragedy.

    Good luck with the chroncile and finding your way without (y)our friend.

    Comment by Ryan Stephenson | October 29, 2017 | Reply

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