n a chronicle Ė an ongoing series of stories Ė not only do characters reside in a familiar environment, but one that evolves as they interact with it. Developing and maintaining a chronicle is a satisfying task, but it requires continuous effort and dedication on the behalf of you and your narrators.
Setting the Stage
The first element to consider in chronicle construction is the atmosphere you desire. The two aspects of atmosphere are mood and theme. Each is a fundamental ingredient in the alchemy of a chronicle. Although mood and theme have already been discussed in terms of story, and some ideas previously presented apply here, mood and theme for a chronicle involves other aspects.
Mood is the underlying emotional sentiment of a chronicle. It sustains and flows through everything you do, unobtrusive yet omnipresent. While the mood of a chronicle is intangible, your choice of mood can be one of the most important ones you make as regards plot, character, and theme. After all, if youíre going for a mood of terror, a gunbunny plot (and characters to match) wonít make much sense.
Themes are central ideas of a chronicle, ones that help define the shape of the action. They can be as visceral as the struggle for freedom or as intellectual as the age-old questions of good and evil. Themes can emerge as seemingly inconsequential encounters or as the major focus of a chronicle. Avoid overemphasizing theme, however. Overemphasis makes related events expected and predictable rather than haunting and prophetic.
The setting is the stage upon which the drama of a chronicle is played. Setting is composed of environment and locale. Environment describes the overall scheme of the world. The environment involves ghostly existence: Shadowlands, Skinlands, Passions, Fetters, Maelstroms, The Tempest, etc. Itís your chapters story, do with it what you will.
Locale, or the physical point where you choose to place your chronicle, is the next step toward chronicle creation. The easiest choice for chronicle setting is the very city in which you and your players live. During your games, you can visit and utilize parts of the city in which your stories take place. Itís also a good bet that your players are familiar enough with their setting to incorporate all sorts of firsthand knowledge into their play.
Creating the City
The city is the focus of your chronicle. You need to present your city in a realistic and consistent manner so that players believe in it. The setting must live and breathe for players, and, until it does, characters cannot come to be. The city is where your stories take place Ė the more interesting and exotic it seems, the more your stories come to life. With each story you run, define the city a little more, but donít give away everything at once.
As the chronicle progresses, add details of geography, custom and plot. Build the city bit by bit at whatever pace you choose. The mortal half of the city is fairly easy to establish. Though the setting is the World of Darkness, much of it is identical to the world we know. However, the city isnít quite the one you live in. Itís fictional. You may want to change a few details here and there to suit the mood of your chapterís games.
Then you want to consider the Restless half of the equation. The history of your city should help (a quick trip to the library works great), determining what relic buildings are present in the Shadowlands (remember, if they were destroyed, they pop up in the Shadowlands). Still, you need to decide what sites are haunted, where the Citadel might be, where the local Nihils are and so on. A detailed map of your city is helpful in this situation. What legions tend to control what area of the city? Where would the Anacreons meet? Answering these questions will help your city come alive for your players.