Two years, and five days.
For two years and five days, I’ve been playing the character of Scout against the plot and against my co-players, weaving details and orchestrated reveals into actions both within the game and outside of it. Recently, on July 5th, 2017, all my plans came to a head and the complete story of Scout was finally revealed to Jim and Chris during the play of the game. My response?
Now, my initial plan was to go along with the main-line writeup land leave the mystery intact until you, the reader, reached the point at which Jim and Chris learned the truth as well. But, as you can see, that is an exceptionally long time out, so since I don’t need to hide the truth from them anymore, and it’s been way too long stringing everyone along already, I decided to bring everything out into the light and reveal all the layers of the plan now.
A fair warning: if you are new to the game and would like to maintain the mystery as it was intended, do not read the rest of this post until you catch up with it in the timeline.
The best way to reveal the details of Operation Scout is to describe the exact moment the idea came about. It’s easy enough to do, since the entire scene has been burned in my mind since the moment it happened.
It was June 30th, 2015, one real-world week before the Battle of Costco, but I knew already that something was going to down. I was not intending for Tom to get taken out, of course, but that evening Jason arrived to my house early and I paced my living room floor as we discussed the looming possibility. Up until this point I had often mentioned a possible backup character–a Lasombra named Kahina–but that day as I contemplated the extinguishing of my very first and favorite character I knew she wouldn’t really be right to take his place.
Jason, sprawled in the awkward embrace of my papasan chair, watched me pace the floor. “Well, you know….” he ventured slowly, “I’m not saying I allow revenge characters, but….” He trailed off with a smirk.
I scoffed. “That wouldn’t work,” I said. “To really be a revenge character it would have to be someone who would care enough about Tom to plan revenge, and since Marcus washed his hands of him, there is absolutely no one in the world who would care enough to–”
I stopped then, struck by one crystalline moment of utter, perfect clarity.
I looked up at Jason, heart pounding from the revelation. “…What if I played Isabella?”
Instantly, Jason sat up, face warping from shock to glory as the same realizations swept his mind. “Oh…my god….”
And thus, over the next half-hour before Jim, Chris, and Kara arrived, the multilayered story of Isabella “Scout” Lytton was born.
At first glance, it seemed perfect. She was already an established character with ties to the plot. And although her existence was a major part of Tom’s character development, in reality she’d only appeared on-screen as an NPC briefly at the start of the game and hadn’t been seen since. Thus, there was still a lot of ambiguity in her character I had the freedom to develop.
But then we began to realize the complications. If Isabella was going to be a secret revenge character, I would have to hide a lot of her core details. Running around slinging Quietus, for example, would be a dead-giveaway as an Assamite, and from there Jim and Chris might make the connection. Moreover, an inescapable part of her plot is her binding to the service of her sire, Cantor. If I played her, I would have to be in contact with him, possibly on-screen, and taking orders from a mysterious elder vampire might also be a giveaway. After heated discussion, Jason and I decided that the best course of action was to construct a misdirecting plot wherein we would let everyone think they were uncovering her mystery, and thus luring them into a false sense of security, unaware of the darker truths that lay deeper.
Layers upon layers. Like an ogre.
The basic plan was this:
Phase 1: Be suspiciously cagey about Scout’s identity. Display an unusual assortment of Disciplines, but never ever display Quietus openly. For all intents and purposes, let everyone–in game and without–assume Scout is a Caitiff, because who would voluntarily present as a Caitiff if they didn’t have to?
Phase 2: Gradually reveal that Scout is in contact with someone. Someone she feared, someone powerful. Eventually reveal that Scout has Chimerstry. Let the natural connections fall into place: Scout must be a Ravnos, she must be a childe or disciple of Flowers, and this is all some elaborate plot to troll Jim!
(I mean, it certainly was an elaborate plot to troll Jim, just not only Jim.)
Phase 3: Profit. With everyone left thinking they had pierced the illusion and understood Scout’s place in the narrative, leave supporting clues to fit that assumption while in reality maneuvering into place to act as needed, finally revealing the entirety of the truth at a pivotal moment.
In essence, the entire plot was a massive meta-Chimerstry, using Chimerstry itself to project an illusion of one character while the real one was still hidden. Jason and I sketched the whole thing out that day, and for the next two years and change, it actually worked pretty well.
But as the years ticked by, the cost started to take its toll.
To fully appreciate the scope of this deception, you have to understand who we are as a game group. These aren’t just assholes I see once a week, these are friends and partners I intertwine my lives with every damn day. And, as natural for shared-interests, our real-world conversations frequently drift to discussing the game, be it plot events or character specs. Every single time it did, I had to very carefully weigh everything I said about Scout. I told different information to Jim and Chris, for example, letting Chris latch onto the idea that this was just a troll of Jim and think he was in on the joke. Conversely, when Jim and I were discussing game events and I sensed he was getting too close to the truth, I’d deftly change the subject. Most importantly, though, I let both their perceptions of me being a scatter-brained player play to my benefit; in general conversation, I’d sometimes asks for reminders of what the core Disciplines for Assamites are, or how Chimeristry worked, or any number of details that I had actually already researched and memorized, and let them happily explain while I smiled and nodded.
But all these multi-level conversations were, in a word, fucking exhausting. On top of that, every one of Scout’s actions in the game had to be triple-checked for different possible interpretations, often simultaneously. Jason tried to help by taking me off-screen as much as possible and he and I made liberal use of ninja-texts to each other, but it made the game a lot more work for me to play.
And on top of that were the writeups. Often I could skate by with a spoken mistake during the game if no one was paying close attention, but once the words were down in print it would be easier to pick up clues, including possibly ones I wasn’t intending. So every word relating to Scout was carefully considered and combed to reveal just the right amount of foreshadowing to be fair.
But, as you’ve noticed, there are still quite a few gaps in her written narrative. These were the most stressful on me, because to me each gap felt like a wound in the plot. Some made for good mystery, but as time has gone on they’ve upset me more and more, cause were this a real novel the big reveal would have happened already. But we had to play the game as a game, and it took two years to get to that point therein, so if it was going to work I had to keep up with the filtering. Of course, now the truth is out, so theoretically the narrative can finally be competed. But how, you ask, can I go back to fill in those gaps when I’m already so far behind in the main narrative?
Because the reason I got so far behind is for almost half a year, whenever I wrote the writeups, I was secretly writing them twice.
Which brings me to now, and why I am writing this post. See, if I was to wait until the main narrative caught up to the singularity point, it might be fucking forever, and many of you might have drifted away by then, with questions never answered. In the meantime, right now I have 60,000 words of writeups already written, all showing the major scenes and plot points of the last few months from Scout’s perspective.
Every character thought, every off-screen scene, and every secret conversation with Cantor.
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put the main-line narrative on hold for a little bit and do a special chapter focusing just on Scout and her side of everything that has been happening. Then, after that, once the main-line narrative resumes, Scout’s identity will be already revealed to you the reader so I can integrate her perspective into the main writeup, which will negate the need to keep all her stuff secret all the time, and thank fucking god because all these layers of work have been killing me, you guys, holy shit. The characters within the game still wont know who she is, though, so you get to enjoy watching their obliviousness on an entirely different level.
A fair word of warning, though. Scout’s writeups are…different. They’re even more narrative in structure, with a deeper character-driven approach, and the tone is darker, lacking even the meta-commentary quips to lighten the mood. Additionally, since I had the freedom of so many secret scenes decoupled from the main narrative, I played around with expanding outside the game narrative, adding in novel scenes to flesh out her story even more. Finally–and I will repeat this warning with each post–there are serious themes of violence and abuse with her character. Nothing extremely explicit, but it’s there, and sometimes unsettles even me.
So. Next time, I will begin Scout’s chapter. I am planning on cross-linking the mainline writeups each one follows if you want to briefly review. I am excited to share them, considering that for two years the only other people who have read these words have been Jason (and friend-of-the-game Mike, an old IRL friend of Jim who often reported Jim’s mistaken theories on Scout’s identity to me so we could cackle over them together). I am also nervous to share them, since I feel I put more of myself into them than I have with anything else so far and I hope they are worthwhile.
Till then, I’d like to leave you with the song that has been, in my mind, Scout’s theme song for the last two years, both because of the tone it conveys and the subtle irony of the lyrics within it. Many times I would listen to it before starting work on her pieces and grin in anticipation of plots eventually to be revealed.