While it’s possible to run a small town vampire game I’ve always been partial to the large metropolis settings. Smaller towns tend to mean that the players are often some of the few Vampires in the game while a large urban center gives me plenty of room to build a thriving community of the undead. In my earlier post I mentioned that I’ll be setting this game in Kansas City but that wasn’t my first choice.
I’ve run vampire games in New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Chicago. All of which have been fun but I like digging into a new city when I start working on a new game. Pulling up a list of major US cities, as I also prefer to keep things in the US because it’s what I know, I almost settled on a game set in Philadelphia. I immediately recognized a potential for a strong Carthian ran city, something I hadn’t experimented much with. As I started reading up on Philly it occurred to me that since this idea isn’t really going anyway, maybe it would be best if my research served a second purpose.
Last year I move to Kansas City but I haven’t been out exploring the area. I’ve been downtown a handful of times and know almost nothing about its history. If I’m going to research a new place for a game it could be a good opportunity to learn more about the area I’m l living in. Plus, if I ever get a local group together it might be a fun pitch to play Vampires in a local environment.
Big City in the Country
Luke Meyer pointed out something to me about using Kansas City (or St. Louis) for a Vampire game that I think is worth mentioning.
One of the things I love about both St. Louis and KC for Vampire settings is that you have a big urban sprawl surrounded by hundreds of miles of rural land. That great open space, interrupted by tiny towns, can be the home to so many great things. Werewolves, of course. Strange Kindred bloodlines. Monsters of your own devising. It’s a dangerous place for Kindred where safe feeding can be difficult and it is a great juxtaposition to city life. It gives such a different feel from huge cities like New York or London.
It’s an idea I hadn’t fully developed but he’s absolutely right. Kansas City gives us a great opportunity to have massive urban sprawl and small town politics all in one game. It’s something I’m going to have to keep in mind as I develop the region. Luke also mentioned that I should dig into the “Bloody Kansas” era of history, which sounds promising.
The Size of the Kingdom
One of the first things I look into is the size of the city. This gives me a rough idea for how many Kindred a location could support. I might have had to throw out Kansas City if there was only enough blood for a handful of Kindred. My first resource for a place is often it’s Wikipedia entry. The 2013 census for Kansas City lists the estimated population as 467,007 .
Wikipedia also includes listings for the Urban and Metro populations, both linking back to more 2013 census records. Digging through all this data we see the Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, MO-KS metropolitan area (Which includes Kansas City, MO, Kansas City, KS, Overland Park, Independence, Olathe, Lee’s Summit, Shawnee, Blue Springs, and Lenexa) population is 2,393,623.
Now that we know the Mortal population we’ll need to figure out the Kindred population. Luckily, the code book talks about.
Vampire: The Requiem – Page 24 – The Body Count
The truth is, Kindred numbers vary from city to city. In most small cities, the proportion of undead to mortals tends to be relatively low: One vampire per 100,000 or more mortals is not uncommon. In large cities, the ratio is usually nearer one vampire per 50,000 mortals. In some cities that seem to draw the Kindred for whatever reason — cities such as New York, London, New Orleans and Chicago — the ratio can be substantially higher. Most Princes don’t particularly keep track. As long as the population doesn’t grow so high that people take notice of the predators among them, numbers don’t matter.
If one were to take a worldwide average, the ratio is probably around the one-to-50,000 mark. It fluctuates so thoroughly from domain to domain that one should never assume that any given population corresponds to that figure.
I’m not sure what would be classified as a small city, but since the book lists New Orléans (roughly 1.4 million in the metro area) as a city capable of supporting a population greater than the one-to-50,000 ratio I think it’s safe to assume that Kansas City would be considered a large city. I’ll admit that the attraction to the area isn’t like that of New Orléans and that the metro areas in Chicago, New York, and London are in the 10 million plus population range could easily support a larger number, I still feel comfortable keeping Kansas City around the average one-to-50,000 range.
This means that Kansas City is home to about nine Kindred. These would likely be the ruling class of the city; the Prince, Seneschal, Primogen, etc. The metropolitan area however supports around 48 kindred. Taking away those living in Kansas City proper, that leaves us with roughly 39 other Kindred in the area.
My goal is to have 6-10 Kindred living in Kansas City and holding court for the 35-40 Kindred in the surrounding area. I can include 15-25 extra Kindred that live in small towns surrounding Kansas City as well. Depending on what my research turns up about the various neighborhoods and towns that number could fluctuate. I’m not locking myself into a 50 Kindred Limit but I’m using it as a rough idea.
Finally, I want to consider the Kindred Population of a couple major metropolitan areas within a night’s travel. Each of these cities are only a few hours by car from Kansas City and support at least 10 Kindred. Except for St. Louis, which likely has its own Prince, the rest of these places are likely tight-knight groups with little formal structure. These groups would likely fall under either the Prince of Kansas City or the Prince of St. Louis. This is also not an extensive list, just a quick glance at a map and a few Wikipedia checks.
- St. Louis, MO: 2,900,605 mortals, roughly 58 Kindred.
- Omaha, NE: 895,151 mortals, roughly 18 Kindred.
- Wichita, KS: 637,989 mortals, roughly 13 Kindred.
- Des Moines, IA: 599,789 mortals, roughly 12 Kindred.
- Springfield, MO: 533,616 mortals, roughly 11 Kindred.
In the end, I’m looking at around two-hundred Kindred in the general area, well under half of the Kindred population of an area like New York City or Los Angeles. A large enough number to support a living breathing community of Kindred, but spread out and isolated enough to not be stepping on a Vampire every time you set foot out your front door.
What’s in a Name?
In my last post I mentioned that I’m going to title my game\setting “The Heart of America” and promised to explain that later. The short answer is that it’s one of the nicknames for Kansas City. I’m just a fan of taking my chronicle names from the nicknames of the locations. When I looked into the options for Kansas City there wasn’t a lot to find.
The first two listed for Kansas City, MO where “KC” and “KCMO”. Which are more abbreviation than nickname. Similarly the only nicknames listed for Kansas City, KS where “KCK” and “KCW” so I’ve got not real inspiration there. Another nickname, “Paris of the Plains”, uses the name of another city which is a bit of a turn off for me. Of course, a lot of cities don’t have inspiring nicknames but luckily Kansas City has two more to pick from.
While I like the idea of calling my game “The City of Fountains” it does lack of macabreness that the final nickname on the list could offer. The name “Heart of America” is a nice wholesome name until you start thinking about hearts and blood and vampires. The idea that Kansas City is the Heart of America resonated with me. It’s a city that’s full of blood. One ready for a Kindred to sink its fangs into. It isn’t the best name ever, but it does give me an idea to work with.
Now that I have a rough idea of how many characters the area supports I’m ready to start digging into the local history and culture to come up with some ideas of characters. For now though, I’m going to table the discussion of Kansas City. I’ll get back to it very soon but I want to go over my character creation process. To fully illustrate this I’ll be outlining an idea I had for the Oldest Kindred in KC; George Erik Irving. Next time we’ll get into the character, what elements I like to have in place, and I’ll show you how I make characters.