Netflix has really done something amazing; they have made a show that is only available through them. I was told to watch House of Cards by my fellow Storytellers(STs) in a Vampire: The Masquerade(VtM) LARP I help run. I’m really glad they recommended it. House of Cards is a story of a man getting passed up for a job and his revenge toward those who passed him over. It can be easily related to VtM because he must use his influences and charisma to do it without getting caught. The show can be watched without any love of politics because of the great dialog and the interesting web of back stabbing that goes on. Anyone can watch it and get enjoyment from it, just like anyone can play VtM and enjoy it.
From this point on this will be full of spoilers so if you haven’t seen House of Cards and do not want to be spoiled please don’t read any farther.
The main character of the story is Francis Underwood. He is passed up for Secretary of State and the show is his journey to get to Vice President. While watching this I came to the conclusion that in VtM he would fit in perfectly with clan Ventrue, a noble ruling clan full of people getting their way by getting other people to do it for them. He is Whip of the House of Representatives which is like Whip of the Ventrue clan and he was passed up by the new Prince to be Primogen of clan Ventrue. So he uses his influence with politics that he already has and replaces the person that was put in his place. However, instead of taking the position himself he puts one of his other clan members in the position. He sets in motion many things to get to the position of Seneshal, or in the show’s world Vice President.
One of the pawns in Francis’s web is Peter Russo, a Congressman from Pennsylvania. In VtM Peter would be a Brujah playing in Ventrue territory. He got into his position because of his influence at the docks: underworld or military. Peter is the type of character that would fit perfectly into clan Brujah, a clan that leads their people to revolution using the system that is already in place. Francis uses Peter by blackmailing him about a night of drunk driving with a prostitute, but then turns around and convinces him to run for Governor. In the VtM world Francis would have caught Peter breaking the Masquerade and blackmailed him into losing part of his influence over the docks. Then owing Peter a boon Francis tries to help him get the position of Sheriff or Harpy, or in the show’s world Governor of Pennsylvania. Francis of course knows that Peter’s break of the Masquerade will happen again and is setting him up for the fall. Peter’s character being a drunk parallels how easily Brujah can frenzy and lose control.
Claire and Francis are married in the show, but in the VtM universe they would be closer to being a coterie. Working with each other to reach the goals they share, they put their influences together to achieve success. Remy used to be part of this coterie as Francis’ childer, but now he runs free as the “rebellious” childer. Remy picked up more influences in bureaucracy and business than he did politics so he could remove himself from Francis’ world and create a section that is just his.
Other influences in the show are the police commissioner and Zoe, these are humans that are being manipulated by the vampires running things. Peter Russo owes Francis a boon because Francis used his influence over the police to get Peter out of jail. Also throughout the show Francis is increasing his influence in the media with his manipulation of Zoe. At first she is just a contact but as the show progresses Francis holds more influence over her.
Watching this show has really helped my understanding of politics and shown me a great way to play clan Ventrue. It also has many good examples of using influences and how to manipulate people in a subtle way. Is there any show that has helped you with your gaming? Or any characters from favorite TV shows you have based characters on? I look forward to reading your comments.
Image Reference: House of Cards – Netflix