I wrote this on October 24th, 2003. Shortly after yet another of my characters became a Malkavian Primogen.
Recently, on the Charleston chat site, my Camarilla Malkavian became Primogen. Rhys wasn't designed to be a Primogen, and it wasn't something I'd considered when I created the character. But here I am again, playing Malk Primo.
Rhys is my fifth Malk Primo. Of the five, three were made to be primogen, or with the possiblility/probability of them becoming primogen. One went on to become Prince. He died in office, defending the Camarilla. One of the other Primos died as Primogen, defending a Prince. The other three have survived so far. One isn't active. One has been through two Table Top stories and held on to his unlife and his title so far. And the last, of course, has only been Primo a short while so far.
It starts with Tess. Tess the cute little girl Malk who couldn't speak English and was so terribly afraid of so much. Her being Primogen never occured to me. But the Primogen took her on as Whip, partly because she was so well-liked. And then he left and she became Primogen. Her choice of Whip was crucial. She had to have a strong Whip to handle things she couldn't. She managed quite well. I think there were only two of them. One stopped playing, and the other stuck around until the site went down. Over the course of a roughly six month run as Primogen, Tess wound up being the power behind the throne and a driving force in a coup that took out a Prince. Not that she was ever aware that she'd done that.
Then there was Gideon. Gid was designed to be a Primogen. We were starting a new site, and the backstory had him having been Primogen for quite a while before we started the game. I wound up playing him as Primogen for something like eight or nine months. During that time, he saw Princes rise and fall, made something of amends with some Toreador, and contemplated going Anarch until the Anarch he was talking to behaved too idiotically for Gid to go through with it. Gid died defending a Prince from someone who may or may not have become Sabbat. He literally got his head bitten off.
Guilford was much later. He was written on the same lines as Gideon, in terms of age and status, though Guil wasn't a primogen when I started playing him. He took the title fairly quickly, though. I can't remember how long he was actually Primogen for - three or four months, I think, perhaps longer. But then the city was in need of a Prince and Guil stepped up. Guil was designed to be a Primogen. He hadn't been designed to be a Prince. He held the title for a little over a year - the longest run as Prince that I've seen in online gaming. He also died defending the Camarilla.
Thaddeus is my TT primo. Thad's another older character, and another one with communication issues. He became primo quite early in the game, though with no one in his constituency. Thad's held up to some major challenges through the storylines he's been in. He seems to always get the best lines, even when he's been forced not to speak.
And now, Rhys. A gentle and artistic character, not quite as ill-prepared to be Primogen as Tess was, and perhaps with some of the same appeal. Rhys is shy and soft spoken and not very certain of how to cope with politics. He took the position to help the city he was born in. It will be interesting seeing how he copes.
They all had very different styles of leadership. They all had very different reactions to adversity. Since a character is always some aspect of the player, in one way or another, it's interesting to see how their leadership styles compare and contrast to my own.
Tess had a gentle hand, and gathered a lot of information. People trusted her. People came to her when they wouldn't go to anyone else. People saw her as fragile, and she was, but she was also ferociously intelligent. Tess tended to avoid confrontation, though she could handle it when she had to.
Gideon was an unpredictable leader. He tended to let people go their own way, but when they went too far, he'd reign them in. Sometimes in an understanding sort of way, sometimes very harsh. And no one ever knew which way he'd go. Gid turned unpredictability into a strength. And that kept everyone on their toes.
Guilford was the strong hand. He was always very precise, and kept exacting standards. He could be quite harsh when people didn't live up to those standards. But he had a great deal of respect for those who would rise to his challenges and keep his standards. Guil wouldn't compromise. He held firmly to his beliefs.
Thad tends to lead by example. His example is to do your own thing as long as it fits the rules unless something is intruding on the city. And then pull off every trick you possibly can to fix things. Thad's quite intense. He's also confusing. Not as confusing as Gideon, though.
And Rhys? We'll see what kind of leader he becomes. So far, he's very law-abiding, very respectful of the hierarchy and has a gentle touch.
Over the years and the Primogen I've played (plus one Prince) and all the other times when someone else was playing Primogen and Prince, I've learned quite a bit about what works in online, in character leadership. The first thing is that you have to be available. If you're a primogen with only a couple of characters under you, it isn't as crucial, but they still need to be able to reach you. Make your times available, and your email. If you can't play scenes out real time (a regular problem for me), play them out in forums or email. If you have times when your real life is going to keep you away from the chats for a period of time, let people know, preferably in advance. If you're burned out, take some time off, but again, let people know. If it's an extended burnout or leave of absense, you may need to step out of the title position. Having the IC leaders MIA makes for frustration for everybody.
The second thing is patience. You're dealing with a lot of different characters, different players and different styles. Some players have a lot of experience. Some have much less. Some players may be coming from backgrounds in which the hierarchy was played out very differently. When dealing with new players, players with lots of TT or LARP experience but no online experience, or players whose experience was in a very different style, you need to be aware of what issues might be OOC rather than IC. The character who doesn't seem to recognize the hierarchy may not be aware of the importance of that hierarchy. Alternatively, the player may know it well but be playing a character who doesn't know, or a character who is actively defiant. When in doubt, ask. Tactfully. If a player screws up IC because of OOC ignorance, be willing to either redo scenes if possible or work with the player to fix things IC.
Tact is another issue. Calling characters idiots IC when your character is so inclined is fine. Calling players idiots isn't. If you're angry or frustrated, think before you post.
And the most important thing is have fun! If you're not having fun, there's a problem. If you're consistently not having fun, you may need to have your character step down. IC politics can be fun to play out, but if that's not your thing, don't play an IC leader.
And what of Malkavian Primogen? Your character is insane. All the characters that you are leading are insane. How do you manage? Depends on your character! Most of the time, it's like herding cats. It's just not going to work by conventional standards. Expect the unexpected and be ready to adapt at any moment. A Malkavian Primogen (or a Malkavian Prince!) is allowed to be wildly unconventional. Sometimes, the least likely things may work best. Just because it doesn't work with sane people doesn't mean it isn't going to work with Malkavians. Experiment!
For me, personally, I've found a place in the hierarchy I'm comfortable with and enjoy doing. Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly, it also mirrors my feelings on real life leadership positions. I'm perfectly happy coordinating a level - a smaller group of teachers working with one course - but have no desire to go any higher in the chain of command than that. Looking back over the groups of teachers I've coordinated, and the groups of Malkavians I've played the Primogen of, there are a heck of a lot of similarities! Is this life imitating art, or art imitating life? I don't know, but the concept just makes me smile.
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