Continuing my recent habit of dropping morsels (actually, this ends up being almost a meal) of new Vegas After Midnight stuff, here’s a one-two punch of infodump for you:
Almost every aspect of The Game is infused with primal natures that correspond to the suits, colors and ranks found in a 54-card deck of playing cards. Awakened characters will have traits and relationships that are influenced by these primal natures. Also, most of the significant non-player characters written into the setting and many of the locations and artifacts will correspond to a specific card in the deck. The suit, color, and rank of a given card will say a lot about the nature of who or what it represents.
The four suits – Spades, Clubs, Diamonds and Hearts – each represent a primal concept in VAM. They are:
- Spades: Chaos [Discord, Anarchy, Freedom, Change]
- Clubs: Fortune [Luck, Innovation, Fate, Intuition]
- Diamonds: Order [Authority, Stasis, Strength, Control]
- Hearts: Passion [Guts, Resolve, Compassion, Emotion]
Diamonds/Hearts (along with the Red Joker) and Spades/Clubs (along with the Black Joker) can each be seen as representing a mingling of the natures of both suits of that color. Red also tends to represent clarity and tangibility, while black represents mystery and intangibility.
VAM assumes a 54-card deck with two Jokers. Aces are considered high, Deuces low. Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks will correspond to various non-player characters in the setting. The Aces – and the two Jokers – will form a sort of primal pantheon known as the High Rollers (see below). Other face cards represent the movers and shakers who lead various factions and make things happen.
The six individuals who embody the natures of the four Aces and two Jokers are popularly collected into a sort of pantheon known as the High Rollers (or just Rollers). Are they gods? spirit guides? psychic energy beings? Something else? Depends on who you ask. However they get labeled, these six have been around forever, and they are the primary movers and shakers of The Game (except perhaps for The Madness itself, but that’s a morsel for another time.) Some think the Rollers created The Game, in fact. Whether that’s true or not, they’re definitely neck-deep in playing it. To what end? Good question. No one can do more than guess at their true purposes or their goals. They sit at the top of the food chain in The Madness. They are primal, capricious and mercurial, and ultimately they always personify the nature of their suits and colors. They are constantly wrangling with one another in a constant cycle of alliances and rivalries that shift around.
All of the Rollers are mysterious and impossible to pin down, but the Aces tend to be more active in the affairs of people, and they each have a sizable collection of Awakened under their patronage. The two Jokers are much more mysterious and awaken people into their folds more rarely. Those who do fall under the patronage of the Jokers are called Wild Cards, and even those rare individuals seem to know practically nothing about the motives and temperaments of the Joker who awakened them.
The other important thing to remember is that to varying degrees, even the High Rollers are affected by Madness. Some people even suspect that the Madness is some sort of entity in itself and is gradually becoming more powerful than the High Rollers. If the High Rollers are the main players in The Game, then it’s a safe bet to think of The Madness as being the House. And as always, the House almost always ends up ahead.
But again, details on The Madness are for an0ther time. Suffice to say that nothing – not even the High Rollers – escapes its growing influence, and as we open the scene in VAM’s setting-timeline, a series of major events will indicate that the whole mess has reached a fever pitch and that something momentous is about to take place – a major turning point in the Game that might force the players to go all-in.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the High Rollers and a quick snippet of info about each of them:
Lady Luck – the Ace of Clubs
- also known as Fortuna, the Fickle Filly, Ms. Clover, the Wheelwoman
The Skinny: Lady Luck has been inseparably tied to Vegas for longer than anyone can imagine. She is the very essence of fortune, both good and ill, and although some believe she doles both her favors and her curses out with blind abandon, wise observers will notice that she clearly has plans and schemes and is fully capable of shrewdly pursuing them in spite of her capricious reputation. It’s true that Fortune’s wheel is constantly in motion and you should never expect your luck to always run good even if you’re a devout follower. But when it all comes down, Lady Luck is very possessive and protective of the city she claims as her own, and she has no intention of allowing it to be swallowed by The Void. Lady Luck goes about in many guises to suit her needs and keep watch over her children, but it is said that no matter where she appears or what she’s up to, she’s always a lady.
The Glitter Man – the Ace of Diamonds
- also known as Lord Walterlee, the Iceman, the Liberator, the Emperor
The Skinny: Those who’ve seen the Glitter Man say he always appears in diamonds that flash and gleam as though lit by the fire of a hundred candles. From his diamond-studded suit and cape to the glittering rings on each finger and the cold, gleaming white of his ever-present rigid smile, the Roller that some call the Iceman never fails to leave a lasting impression of gaudy power and wealth. Beneath that gaudiness, though, is a stern and implacable personality who will stop at nothing until a proper sense of law and order overcomes the growing Madness. For him, it’s all about the proper application of just the right resources at just the right time, always with a mind toward controlling the flow of The Game and forcing it to his advantage. Those whom he patronizes tend to call him The Emperor of Light, but he is also known by others as the Liberator – a half-facetious moniker considering his lordship over Order and Authority.
Mister Vegas – the Ace of Spades
- also known as Father Thanksalot, the Wrecker
The Skinny: A cunning smile, twinkling eyes, and a strangely soft but alluring voice are the most obvious characteristics of Mister Vegas. Whenever he shows up, things never seem to work out as planned. Stuff falls apart, the center cannot hold and all that. And he shows up quite often these days. He has a reputation for appearing more often over a longer period of time than any of his peers, in fact. More than any other Ace, Mister Vegas is thought to be heavily under the sway of the Madness and in fact some believe he’s working to help it rather than hinder it. He is, after all, the personified aspect of Chaos and anarchy. But he also represents freedom and change, and many of his children are gifted with abilities that allow them to think and act way outside the box, and in a world where its all about fighting fire with fire, the Ace of Spades and his children have the most fire to fight with. The only sad thing is, for all their talents, Mr. Vegas and many of his children seem to have a really hard time being able to dance well.
Merry Mags – the Ace of Hearts
- also known as Red Maggie, the Empress
The Skinny: For quite a long time, the red-haired wanderer known as Merry Mags was considered even more of a myth than her peers. She almost never appeared to anyone and her involvement in the Game seemed much more subdued than others. But lately, that has changed. Red Maggie is far more present these days, as if she has decided to step up and bring some much-needed fire into the midst of the darkness just as the darkness seems poised to overwhelm everything. She’s awakening more recruits than ever before, and taking a more active hand in doling out compassion and inspiration to those who seem to need such things most – which in the hopeless state of things, includes almost everyone. An interesting aspect of Merry Mags’ involvement in the Game is that no one is quite sure what ties her so deeply to the history and energy of Vegas. Among all the other Rollers she seems like a fish out of water. There is no glamorous facade, no pretention to a shtick. She wears her heart on her sleeve and takes action with apparently little forethought or strategy. She has dived into the Madness and wrangles with it with fierce protective intensity, like a mother bear. Unfortunately, the Madness in turn seems to be taking its toll on Mags and her chosen ones far more than the children of the other Aces. More of her Awakened fall to the Madness and turn into nightmares than any other Roller, and when they fall, they tend to fall hard and become very powerful. In that light, many are worried that when it comes down to it, Merry Mags and her folk are doing more harm than good.
The Thief – the Black Joker
- also known as the Fool of Cool, Kid Crochet, the Seeker
The Skinny: There’s an odd rumor going around that the wild card known as the Thief is actually the original Dino, the man who was exiled from the Rat Pack several years ago by The Chairman after Dino attempted to steal the Chairman’s favorite girl. No one knows for sure because so few people ever actually see the Black Joker, even among those who call themselves his chosen. In any case, the Thief is using his impressive intuition and instincts to make a major run at controlling the Game. When he does appear, he is the very model of cool, lucky, unpredictable, and charismatic. His children generally come off the same way. There is, however, one rather strange story about the Fool of Cool. In spite of all his charisma and social grace, it seems there is always an underlying sadness about him, and the story goes that the reason for this is that long ago, he was one with the Red Joker, until fate tore them asunder and put them at cross purposes. Now the Thief is obsessed with finding his way back to his former companion and reconciling with his lost other half. And the strangest thing of all? There are some nutty people who think that reconciling the two Jokers is actually the key to overcoming the Madness and healing the world. Heh.
The Joker – the Red Joker
- also known as He Who Walks Alone, Picchiatello, the Hermit
The Skinny: The Roller who bears the mantle of Red Joker is is the most enigmatic and confusing of all the High Rollers. Some think he is as savior, others are convinced he is a demon, the very fool who brought the Madness down into the world in the first place. Listening to tales of him, you’d think he has a split personality. Most of the time he is a manic oddball who secretively plays crazy tricks on everyone, but then you’ll hear of him playing the role of a suave, slick, and calculatingly devious provocateur. The most frustrating part of this, though, is that almost everything told about him is based on conjecture because in recent years he has become by far the most secretive and isolated of all his peers. If and when he does show up, he’s always in disguise, or acting through often unwitting agents. For this reason, he is often called the Hermit or He Who Walks Alone. These monikers feed into the notion that he remains so elusive because he knows that he caused the Madness in the first place and is ashamed, or at least that he is so deeply tied into the Madness that he is its main conduit. On the other hand, a persistent belief among a small but stubborn group of Awakened folk is that finding the Red Joker and bringing him back into sync with his black counterpart is the key to overcoming the Madness once and for all.
Okay, that’s enough for today. By the way, if I’m whetting your appetite with any of this, feel free to ask questions or make comments. Part of the reason I’m choosing to share this is to get an idea of what is coming off as confusing and/or perplexing.
Vegas After Midnight by Mick Bradley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.