Vampire: the Requiem

[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 6: Hunger, Blood and Humanity

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Now that we’ve had a chance to go over Character Creation, we’ll be taking a look at a few other mechanics that aren’t covered in the basic rules, but are vital to being a Vampire.

Hunger

If nothing else, hunger is the constant companion of the Vampire. It might be silenced for a while, but it will always come back. Mechanically, this is represented by the Hunger Dice rules.

Vampires replace a number of normal dice in their rolls with a number of Hunger Dice equal to their Hunger rating. The hungrier the vampire is, the more dice are swapped out. These dice (denoted as being a different color) behave differently to regular dice. Their outcomes are:

  • 1 – Failure, Bestial Failure if the test fails
  • 2-5 – Failure
  • 6-9 – Success
  • 10 – Success, Messy Critical if part of a Critical Win (a pair of 0’s)

Essentially, the Hunger dice throw a wrench into the calm, and calculated lives of the Kindred. Plans go awry as the Beast manifests prematurely in Bestial Failure, resulting in the Kindred acting out a Compulsion, or the Beast overreacts in a Messy Critical, achieving the objective in a manner that is bestial and quite possibly a breach of the Masquerade.

Compulsions

Vampires are driven by the beast and when hungry, find it difficult to act in moderation. Bestial Failure results in them behaving in a way that runs counter to their objective as they succumb to the flaws of personality that they have. While Clans have a particular Compulsion linked to them, individual vampires exhibit different compulsions as the situation warrants.

Blood Resonance and Dyscrasia

One of the more interesting mechanics in V5 is the way that blood affects Vampiric Disciplines. When feeding from humans who are in a particularly strong emotional state, Vampires find that their Disciplines are energized, adding 1 die for dice pools involving related powers. For those who are in very intense states, the effects are even more powerful, giving bonus damage or rerolls as necessary.

Needless to say this opens up the game to a very disturbing possibility of actually cultivating these emotional states. It’s not far fetched when we’re talking about the monsters that the Kindred are. Hopefully no groups will be comfortable about the idea of keeping a stable of mortals who are either drugged up to hell, or kept in a constant state of terror with torture to refine their blood to the appropriate flavor.

Humanity

This is the measure of how close a Vampire is to their human life and the people that remind them about who they once were. For some, this is a depressing sort of measure as it shows you the slow descent to a monster that vampires are quite familiar with.

As a vampire’s Humanity changes, their bodies change as well. At the highest states of grace, Vampires are near-human, able to eat or appear to be a pale mortal in good health. As you descend into sub-humanity your ability to relate to or interact with humans are penalized, and you lose the ability to fake living bodily functions such as sexual intercourse or consuming food.

As typical with most “morality meters” in WoD games, Humanity moves up and down based on behavior of the kindred. As the kindred does things that harm their Humanity, they incur Stains. At the end of a session where a character has Stains on their Humanity, they make a remorse roll as they struggle with their conscience. A failed Remose roll results in the Kindred losing humanity.

Every supernatural creature in the World of Darkness has their own special set of mechanics that simulate their condition. V5 goes all in with these, and always goes back to the central thesis that Vampires are utter monsters.

I like that the Hunger Dice are there to screw with the Vampire’s best laid plans. The Beast is fickle and hard to deal with, and its presence is felt more keenly when you lose control now and then whenever you’re hungry.

Blood Resonance is thematically beautiful but implies such a disturbing line of thinking among the predators that I’m left thoroughly disturbed.

Finally Humanity is an indicator, a measure of your fall from grace. While there can be tales of vampires struggling for the light, more often than not, those are stories that are destined to end up in tragedy.

I feel like Vampire is finally hitting its stride here. There’s clearly a ton of thought put into the state of being a vampire in the Character Creation and the mechanics that simulate the nature of the Beast, Hunger and the Blood that I have to say that I’m impressed.

Next up, we’ll be taking a quick peek at the Disciplines in the game.

If you’d like to read along, you can grab a PDF copy of Vampire the Masquerade 5e from the World of Darkness Website for $24.99

[Review] Blood & Smoke the Strix Chronicle

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Blood & Smoke marks the beginning of a new cycle of World of Darkness supplements from the people of Onyx Path, one that updates their earlier work to the rules as first introduced in The God-Machine Chronicle.

Though labelled as a sourcebook, Blood & Smoke is a stand-alone product that allows Storytellers to run campaigns of Vampire: the Requiem without the need to buy the World of Darkness Corebook or Vampire: the Requiem. This is a good thing, as the last thing I wan tto be doing is to be referencing multiple books when I’m running a game.

I have to admit that I found my initial impressions of Vampire: the Requiem to be a little less than stellar in my first round of Let’s Study articles on the game. The groups felt artificial, and while the Clans were neat, I felt that the game lacked a certain edge, a passion that was present in the classic World of Darkness’ Vampire: the Masquerade.

Because of this, I’m happy to report that Blood & Smoke was an absolute surprise to me. Written in a much more interesting and engaging voice, Blood & Smoke reimagines Vampire: the Requiem and drags the reader along to witness the glory and depravity of the Kindred.

Right from the start, Blood & Smoke wastes no time reintroducing us to the Vampire Clans. The new writeups are much more visceral, and take a stronger show, don’t tell angle that does a great job in relaying the feel of the various Clans. Rather than get caught up in jargon and terminology, each writeup paints a sketch of the Clan by use of examples and a small section of “Why you want to be us” is perfect for cementing the motivations of each Clan.

The Covenants were given a similarly drastic change in tone, with a short bit of fiction to show just how they operate, and again motivations and methodologies are called out and communicated in a way that is best suited to getting players to get a strong grasp of their characters.

The vampiric condition is given a thorough treatment as well, though again the tone of the book is one dedicated to teaching by example rather than the less engaging recital of facts.

The Character Creation rules are similar to that of the God-Machine Chronicle, with the use of Experiences, Aspirations and a few interesting new systems.

Masks and Dirges are similar to the Classic World of Darkness’ Nature and Demeanors, but take over the place of a mortal character’s Virtue and Vice.

Touchstones are persons, places or things that remind a character of her humanity and keeps her grounded. Think of them as a memento or sorts that help anchor a Vampire by reminding him of his time as a human.

I won’t go too much into these mechanics but each one is a bit of genius when it comes to managing life as a vampire. I’ve been in too many games where players end up more callous than their characters ought to be. These systems give the vampires something to care for, and a reason to care for them.

I’m not too familiar with the already existing systems for Disciplines in Vampire: the Requiem, but what I’ve read from Blood & Smoke are promising. The Disciplines themselves are flavorful and some are downright creepy, as they ought to be in a game like this.

It’s only after these that the book presents the basic rules of the game, and after the God-Machine rules update, this is pretty much already well ironed out.

The Strix have their own section, talking about what they’re like and their history, but the best part of the section aside from Strix creation rules, are the various sample Strix provided. Each one would make an interesting opponent for the Kindred, with a canny ST being able to maneuver them to become recurring antagonists.

Another remarkable section in the book is the one that deals with the Kindred of other locations from around the world. From Athens to Beijing and Tokyo each one is a mini-setting in itself. Though without the same depth as the treatment of New Orleans in the original Vampire: the Requiem book, there’s more than enough material here to get a long term campaign going.

The book finishes off with an extensive Storytelling chapter, and a list of common conditions to a Vampire campaign.

Blood & Smoke is a beautiful nightmare of a book. It’s taken Vampire: the Requiem and exposed it’s horrifying and alluring nature and made it even more streamlined and accessible with the God-Machine rules update and a re-imagined take on the game itself.

Anyone who has ever felt that Requiem was a less impressive game than Masquerade owes themselves to get a copy of this game. Those who loved Requiem needs to check out the improvements made on it by the new rules.

If this is the new standard of the Chronicle books, then consider me addicted. This has gotten me stoked to actually run a campaign of it and I’m already earmarking funds to pay for the Werewolf and Mage Chonicle books if this is the kind of quality I’ll be getting.

Blood & Smoke The Strix Chronicle is now available from DriveThruRPG for $19.99 or roughly Php 860.00

The Value of Trying Something New

Over the past few years, I’ve been pretty much locked into a standard pattern of games mostly revolving around Mage: the Awakening and Legend of the Five Rings. Both are excellent games, and are certainly worth playing, but I think I’ll need to figure out if changing my usual focus will help me improve in directions that I don’t usually take.

I think if anything I’ve learned that my Social/Political games are pretty involved, so maybe it’s time I lean slightly away from those. The current game I’m looking to work on is a Supers campaign, but I’m still not sold if I’m going to expand it to a full-length campaign just yet.

While that’s going on, I’ve taken to the habit of going over my collection of PDF books, some of which I’ve already mentioned in yesterday’s post about Games I Ought to Run. Upon further review, maybe I should force myself to run games that I found to be either too difficult or too arcane the last time.

Push myself further, in a manner of speaking.

So I’ve been taking a look at some of the games that have traditionally been giving me some trouble. Either with concept or getting a game off the ground. I’ll see if I can document the process of planning as well once I successfully sling a pitch to my players as well.

I don’t have a list of games as of yet, but already some of the early shoe-ins for this will be Geist: the Sin Eaters and Hunter: the Vigil but also some of the older classics like Werewolf: the Forsaken or Vampire: the Requiem.

[Vampire: the Requiem] DriveThruRPG Sale Until November 1st

Whether you’re a fan of White Wolf’s Vampire: the Requiem and you’re looking to fill out your collection, or if you’re a curious newcomer to the World of Darkness, the latest sale on Vampire: the Requiem PDFs on DriveThruRPG is something that you should pay close attention to.

All of the Vampire: the Requiem PDFs are on discount right now, with the corebook going for a mere $15.74 (Php 670.00) and many of the supplements going for far less than that.

Being the most popular flagship of the World of Darkness, Vampire: the Requiem makes for excellent personal horror gaming, with issues of morality, depravity and all sorts of disturbing detail that work to make Vampires scary again.

 

[Gaming 101] Games to Start With Part 2: Horror

Next to Fantasy, Horror has to be one of the most popular genres for Roleplaying games. In today’s installment for Games to Start With, we’ll take a look at the games focused on the creepy and horrifying.


Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium
If you haven’t heard of H.P. Lovecraft, then you have some serious catching up to do. Call of Cthulhu is one of the most revered and well respected horror roleplaying games in history. Aside from having an incredibly rich tradition of horror literature to draw from, the game’s Sanity system ensures that nobody survives an encounter with evil without developing a few derangements.


Trail of Cthulhu by Pelgrane Press
If the classic Cthulhu experience sounds a little dry, then perhaps the newer Trail of Cthulhu game will be more up your alley. Powered by the Gumshoe system, the game focuses less on being able to find clues and more on what to do with them. Pelgrane has some terrific support for this line, and you can’t really go wrong with this pick either.

World of Darkness by White Wolf Publishing
Perhaps the most popular horror game series in recent times, the World of Darkness puts players in a world similar to ours, but where things hide in the shadows and prey upon humanity. The default of the game has players take the role of ordinary people who have had a glimpse of the supernatural and need to survive it (like the protagonists vs. Sadako in The Ring.) But the line truly shines when it starts getting into the supernatural games, where the aspect of Personal Horror becomes clear when the players take on the role of the monsters themselves, as you’ll see in the games below.


Vampire: the Requiem by White Wolf Publishing
The most popular of the World of Darkness supernaturals, Vampire: the Requiem is an unrelenting look into the vampires of the World of Darkness. It’s vicious, ugly and horrifying, and there’s nothing sparkly about the vampires here. Some enthusiasts have likened it to The Sopranos with fangs, where the politics of the undead take center stage and the struggle for power is eternal. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Werewolf: the Forsaken by White Wolf Publishing
Predator and Prey, the Werewolves of the World of Darkness are live a life of constant struggle for survival. Tasked with an ancient duty to police the spirit world and mortal realm from incursions from both sides, the Werewolves live lives of terrifying violence and constantly ride the razor’s edge between fury and sanity. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Mage: the Awakening by White Wolf Publishing
What would you do if you had the power to change reality? Players take on the role of Mages, ordinary people who have been blessed or cursed with the ability to see beyond the boundaries of this false reality. Much like the protagonists of the Matrix, Mages have been made aware of a higher reality and can no longer close their eyes to the unreal horrors that creep in from the cracks of this fallen world.  Mages are cursed with knowledge and hubris in equal measure, and the world shudders at the tragedy that follows in their wake. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Changeling: the Lost by White Wolf Publishing
Players take on the role of humans who have been abducted by the Gentry to the realm of Arcadia, home of the Fae. In their terrifying period of capture they are twisted and transformed, turned into something no longer human. They are the Changelings, and their escape from Arcadia was no easy feat, but now that they’re free, they must constantly remain vigilant against the jealous Keepers who want them back. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Hunter: the Vigil by White Wolf Publishing
Something happened, and you know it wasn’t some freak accident that took her away from you. The players take on the role of Hunters, humans who have seen the supernatural and have taken steps to take back the night. Desperate and perhaps more than a little crazy, the Hunters live a lonely life of struggle to find closure by killing the monsters that shattered their normal lives. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

There’s more to the World of Darkness, with Promethean: the Created, Geist: the Sin-Eaters and the upcoming Mummy: the Curse but I feel that the above titles are the strongest in the line so far.

That’s it for my initial batch, next week we’ll look at another genre: Sci-Fi

If you’re interested in picking up any of these in hardcover, you can order them directly from Gaming Library.

To place an order, please go to Gaming Library’s special order express page : http://www.gaminglib.com/pages/special-order-express-page

Take note that placing an order there doesn’t mean you’re committed, rather the Gaming Library team will be giving a quote and you can now choose whether to push through with the purchase or not.

[Let’s Study V:tR] The Ordo Dracul

Nothing is permanent, even Damnation

In the eyes of the Ordo Dracul, the vampiric state is but a phase in what is ultimately an evolution of their kind to something else, something far greater.  One of the youngest of the Covenants, the Ordo Dracul are a forward thinking and admittedly optimistic society dedicated towards transcendence, or perhaps even Apotheosis.

Claiming descent from the legendary Vlad Tepes himself, the Ordo Dracul embraces their founder’s struggles against God, with the use of vicious and relentless experimentation to find ways to circumvent the nature of His curse.  In some ways they represent a philosophy that God cannot stand against the will, and a truly determined Ordo Dracul vampire will find a way to overcome.

The Ordo Dracul count some of the most brilliant minds of Kindred Society among their number, perhaps because the Ordo Dracul’s key philosophy is one that fits the very nature of experimentation.  Their organization is a strange one, a melding of Victorian-era secret societies and mystery cults with the structure of the the academe.  It is a meritocracy of sorts, mostly centered on a Kindred’s advancement along the Coils of the Dragon, a series of “cheats” that allow a vampire to alter the nature of their vampiric curse, allowing them to become more efficient at the consumption of blood, or even withstand limited exposure to sunlight.

The Ordo is not afraid of experimentation, and hold the act of observation and understanding through many years of experience to be key in their ability to survive.  Despite the fact that they are among the youngest of the Covenants, they are cold, calculating and methodical and use these characteristics to their advantage when it comes to any sort of conflict.

There’s always a better way

The Ordo Dracul understand that transcending the vampiric curse is something that isn’t about to happen overnight.  Nevertheless the gains made by improving upon the Coils of the Dragon have been bandied about as proof that they are on the right track.  This is profoundly disturbing to most of the other Covenants, particularly the Lancea Sanctum who hold the vampiric curse as their lot according to God.

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I must admit that after reading all the 5 main Covenants in Vampire: the Requiem, I can’t help but get a strong Mage: the Awakening vibe from the Ordo Dracul.  They’re cursed, but refuse to see it as a permanent state.  They work with remarkable determination and their zeal for experimentation (at whatever unholy cost) tends to breed all sorts of horror and “progress.”  Weaker-willed vampires will probably give up, or recoil at the depths at which the Ordo Dracul will explore in order to find their answers, and that’s just the way the Ordo probably like it.

If I were to choose a second Covenant after Invictus, the Ordo Dracul makes a very compelling case for a character I’d enjoy playing.  If anything, I can also see them working very well in crossover games that deal with the other supernaturals, especially against Mages.

[Let’s Study V:tR] The Lancea Sanctum

My, what good little demons we are.

The Lancea Sanctum are a Covenant of vampires who adhere to the words of the Testament of Longinus, a spiritual take on the vampiric curse that paints the damned as not as lost souls, but demons with a purpose.  To the Lancea Sanctum, the vampires are indeed cast out from the sight of God, but they are not without purpose in His Divine Plan.  To the Sanctified, they are those chosen to be agents of God’s displeasure, his very wrath made manifest.

To the Sanctified, his very existence is dedicated towards furthering the goals of God.  He is an instrument, preying upon the sinful mortals to bring them in line with God’s will, while also adhering to the tenants of the faith.  This sort of near-zealous self-justification of what is technically cold-blooded murder is what makes them frightening to the other Covenants, as they seem to take it as the most natural of processes.  Even those of the bizarre cults of the Circle of the Crone acknowledge that life itself is somewhat worthy of respect, but the Sanctified will take a life without question.

That said, the Lancea Sanctum holds quite a lot of clout among vampires.  Their faith is a powerful one, and is often the only sense of morality that a young, newly embraced vampire can come to terms with.  Many Vampires who were spiritual in their mortal lives gravitate to this, finding some small measure of peace in the idea that they are somehow still part of the Divine Plan, regardless of how far they’ve fallen.

However, the Lancea Sanctum also an ambitious Covenant, as it seeks to address the issue that there are still vampires that are not of the faith.  To them, such vampires are misguided at best, and heretical at worse.  As such the Lancea Sanctum is the one that causes some of the most tensions among all the Covenants as they will actively seek out to convert other vampires to their faith.  They may not necessarily push the vampire into joining their Covenant, per se, but many vampires would rather pay lip service to the Lancea Sanctum rather than be forced to convert or die at the hands of the Lancea’s most ardent followers.

Wolves Among Sheep

The Lancea Sanctum posit an interesting moral code.  As the damned, they occupy a strange niche in the spiritual food chain.  Much like fallen angels, they prey upon humanity and serve God in doing so.  They are the self-styled necessary evil for those who are weak in faith to find a reason to believe in God and pray for his protection.  It is an interesting philosophy, to be honest and one that I can see working.  Vampires cling to such a spirituality with the desperation of the dying, as it gives them some semblance of purpose.  Little wonder then that they strive to prove all the other vampires wrong, just to silence the doubt in their hearts.

Miracles of the Damned

Of all the Covenants, the Lancea Sanctum practice a strange form of magic known as Theban Sorcery.  This is often used as proof of the Lancea Sanctum’s holy nature, capable of calling upon such miracles as a sign that they are in fact doing God’s will.  To their credit the powers often do manifest as divine miracles and require a sacrament in the form of an offering and faith in the form of a point of Willpower to cast.  The spells themselves take on a biblical tone, causing people to speak in tongues or suffers from other forms of curses.

The Lancea Sanctum is a Covenant that has many strong Catholic undertones.  It’s heretical, yes, but draws strongly from the narrow-minded view of the Church during the Dark Ages.  It makes sense in some crazy desperate way, considering that the Vampires can’t exactly say that they’re exalted over mankind in the usual sens that most zealous religions use because they very well know that they’ve got the short end of the stick.  That said, Vampires who are plagued with doubt and guilt will no doubt find the Lancea Sanctum to be quite able to soothe their troubled consciences in the eternal night.

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