In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.
Satan Has a New Name is a Fastaval scenario by Tore Vange Pedersen. In choosing Fastaval scenarios to read from the Nineties, I’m severely constrained by the fact that so few are available in English. On the upside, it leads to fun choices like this one.
Technically, this is a scenario for Vampire: the Masquerade, but there’s a decidedly freespirited approach to the source game. There are two books it tells you to read: Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand and The Bible. And indeed this is good shorthand to let you know what to expect.
The scenario reminds me of The Arduin Grimoire, a similarly freewheeling early D&D hack. Here too DIY sensibilities frame the gonzo new ideas. There are two new clans, the Seventh Seal Severers and the Guardians of Tanis. The Severers are a paramilitary organization based in Hell and led by Jago, the new Satan. They’re all men. The Guardians have an Egyptian theme and are all women.
The story itself is fairly commonplace, with player characters arriving in Brussels and getting caught up in murders and accusations. What’s interesting is the style, the framing and the setting. The scenario has verve despite its adolescent fantasies, or maybe because of them.
There are two significant wish fulfillment NPCs, the Justicar and Seventh Seal Severer Praetorian Guard leader Marcus McLeod and the new Satan, Jago. (It’s important to remember here that Scots were considered to be extremely cool in geek circles in the Nineties.) Of Jago we learn that he’s a dude who likes to dress in black jeans and a black t-shirt.
One distinct thematic element is that McLeod is in a loving, committed relationship with Iva, who’s also a vampire. The approach to romance is extremely sincere. These aspirational NPCs are powerful, tragic, loving family men besotted with their wives.
Satan Has a New Name is fun in all its extravagance but I think it also points to the fantasies Vampire: the Masquerade can serve in a more open, honest way than the source material does. Everything is on display in all its naked glory.
The scenario is instructed to be played in English and sex is expected to be part of the action. When sex does comes up, it turns out to be surprisingly wholesome: The characters chance upon MacLeod and Iva having sex in a loving, joyful manner.
Structurally, the scenario makes a connection between Fastaval and the style of adventure design typical of the World of Darkness in the Nineties. The basic unit for both is the scene and while scene-based design was fairly rudimentary in old Vampire adventures it developed into an entire design school at Fastaval.
One of the incidental characters in Hell is a vampire weredinosaur who’s torturing Hitler.