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[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 10: Chronicles, Tools & Appendices

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So you’ve got your player characters, and the city upon which to unleash them.

Now what?

Chronicles

The Chronicles chapter addresses that issue by inspiring Storytellers by providing a host of Chronicle Ideas, as well as a guided tour of how to dredge up drama and interesting stories by looking at the conflicts inherent to the setting.

There’s a good range of scales provided in this chapter, and advice ranges from street level games where issues of turf and gang-wars are the norm, to more political games.

The chapter also goes into detail on how to run a campaign, from handling the spotlight to managing the villains, whether they be other vampires, the Second Inquisition or worse.

Tools

The Tools chapter is where the Storyteller goes for their Antagonists, Equipment and Loresheets. There’s not much to say here, except that there’s definitely going to be Werewolves, Mages, Changelings and Wraith in the future… with Hunters likely being there as well.

Given the whole Second Inquisition thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hunters were a big part of it.

Appendices

The book concludes with three Appendices: Standard Feats, Projects and Advice for Considerate Play. Standard Feats talks about the usual rolls that you might encounter in a game and how to manage them in play. Projects introduces a subsystem that allows Vampires to undertake long-term projects, like establishing a drug empire in a city.

But perhaps the most important of all is the last one. Advice for Considerate Play is an essay about how to run Vampire responsibly, going over all the best practices in making Vampire a safer experience for everyone. There’s solid advice here on handling delicate issues such as identity, fascism, and sexual violence in a manner that is safer.

Add to that is advice on what Safety Tools can be used in game to make sure that people can tap out before things go wrong. I’m glad to see these because awareness for the need of these safety tools and the tools themselves isn’t exactly common knowledge, having them here helps a lot.

Overall the Chronicles and Tools Chapters are pretty utilitarian. They cover all the bases and are valuable to Storytellers looking for inspiration for running a new game of Vampire with the new edition.

After being exposed to the horrible things that Vampires do in the World of Darkness, it’s a good thing to end with that last appendix. It’s a much-needed section that I’m glad was there, and I would mandate the presence of these in play if the Storyteller intends to run Vampire as-is, without diluting it from how it was presented in the book.

Finally we’ll have a Review of V5 as a whole in our next and final entry in this Let’s Study series.

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

[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 9: Cities

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More than in any of the other games in the World of Darkness, Vampire concerns itself greatly with territory. As such, being able to define the city in which a Vampire chronicle takes place is a big deal.

This chapter covers a good amount of detail as to what your considerations should be in putting together the details of the city, as the way that things are divided among the Kindred is a reflection of the policies of the Prince or the Council in power.

The city as a character is explored in detail here, with attention to how a well-designed setting can spawn story hooks simply by existing. There’s a strong sense of an ecosystem (or at least a food chain) at work here, and even the most green of neonates find that nothing they do is without consequences.

Basic things like feeding rights and territories add up to a lot, and the chapter goes into depths as to just how far-reaching the consequences are in meddling with the status quo. Regardless of where you are, whatever happen in the city affects you.

While perhaps not as sexy as the other chapters, the City Chapter is one that I appreciated for it’s near clinical take on the way that the city acts as an ecosystem and how the Kindred’s actions are influenced by the city and vice versa.

Next, we’ll be taking a look at the Storytelling Chapter, the second to the last installment of this series!

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

[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 8: Advanced Rules

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My earlier observation on the Rules chapter was that V5 was a very simple rules system, approaching a more narrative style of play than what it used to be. This isn’t really a problem given the nature of horror games needing less mechanics getting in the way of the story and the fear.

But for those who are looking for it, V5 also provides a grab bag of optional rules that add or subtract layers to the base system. Some of these options make the game even more freeform than it already is, while others (like the combat rules) move the game closer to more traditional rules of Vampire.

I won’t go into full detail for these systems right now, but covered are:

  • Rules for handling Scenes and Modes
  • Extended Tests
  • One-Roll Combat
  • Additional Combat Options (specific maneuvers)
  • Movement in Combat
  • Initiative systems
  • Hunting systems
  • Kindred Intimacy
  • Memoriam (a flashback system to allow for some level of dramatic editing)
  • Prestation (a favor trading system among the Kindred)

On Kindred Intimacy

I’ve seen some very disturbing things so far in V5, and at this point I’ve come to the conclusion that playing a Vampire means accepting that your characters will be monsters. The section on Kindred Intimacy in particular is bound to squick a LOT of people, as it presents “sex” as it were between Vampires to be a high-risk affair as one could easily end up blood bound to the other.

The fact that the game itself has explicit rules for how a player character can manipulate a vampiric partner to succumb to temptation and their limits to bind them to the player character is a major red flag. It’s got shades of all sorts of power disparity, sexual assault and rape in big red letters.

And yet, if you stop to think about it. That kind of atrocity is what Vampires do.

Yes, it’s ugly, and uncomfortable, and I hope to god you never resort to having to employ the rules in any of your games, but the fact that it’s there is a strong statement to further cement the thesis: Vampires are not nice people. They’re monsters.

Moving on, we’ll be looking at the rules for Cities, the hunting grounds of the Kindred.

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

[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 7: Disciplines

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One of the first things experienced players in Vampire will check out will be the Disciplines. As supernatural powers that the Vampires possess, this is probably the chapter of fun toys that players have to work with.

We won’t be going over each of the Disciplines in this entry as I’d end up spoiling the specifics, but we will be taking a look at the mechanics behind them

Learning Disciplines

In addition to the dots in Disciplines earned during character creation, vampires may spend experience points to learn new ones. That said, there’s an extra requirement: To spend experience, the vampire has to feed on a matching Resonance to do so. Furthermore to learn Disciplines outside of your clan, you’ll need to taste the blood of a Vampire who knows the Discipline.

Selecting Powers

Each dot in a Discipline has a small selection of powers to choose from. Upon learning a dot, a vampire chooses one power from the dot level they’ve unlocked, or a level below. The vampire only knows a number of powers equal to the dots they have.

Timing

Disciplines require little to no time to activate, but the vampire is restricted to activating one Discipline per turn. However, a Kindred may stack multiple ongoing Disciplines without penalty.

The Disciplines

Given that we’re only restricted to 7 clans now, the Discipline list is much shorter, but covers the classics:

  • Animalism – Control over animals and bestial features
  • Auspex – Supernatural perceptions
  • Celerity – Blood-born super speed
  • Dominate – The ability to override the thoughts of sentient creatures
  • Fortitude – Unnatural resilience
  • Obfuscate – Predatory stealth
  • Potence – Uncanny might
  • Presence – Vampiric charm
  • Protean – Shapeshifting
  • Blood Sorcery – Magic born of the blood
  • Thin-Blood Alchemy – A new form of magic hacked together by the Thin-Bloods

Of all of these Thin-Blood Alchemy is probably of the most interest. The dominance of the Thin-Bloods in this new era means that you’ve got weaker vampires with access to more flexibility than the usual Disciplines we’re familiar with.

The addition of the requirements of feeding to learn new dots in Disciplines is a nice touch to me, tying your powers to that of the blood that sustains you. Also, it ensures that your character, an unstable predatory creature with a habit of snapping into a feral state when pressed is constantly motivated to move within the herd.

It’s an interesting way for a single rule to add depth of flavor to the setting, and works well to keep everyone in the mindset that Vampires are very unlikely to really get along with the herd when all they see is food.

Next up we’ll be taking a look at the “Advanced Rules” that provide options for more detail than the basic rules we’ve discussed prior.

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

[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

[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 2: Kindred Society

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Vampire has always been a “Social” game. As covert predators that lurk among their prey, it makes sense that Vampires would be positioned as capable (and specialized) to blend in seamlessly with humans.

But it’s an entirely different situation when you have predators interacting with one another.

The Kindred Society chapter opens up with a quick note of how Vampires used to rule in the early days as kings and emperors, until the first Inquisition when they were forced into more covert methods they use today. While vampires have difficulty coping with the new technologies that make their covert lives so much harder in the modern nights, they find ways.

The Jyhad

There’s a quick mention of the Jyhad, the never-ending war among the Kindred. It’s long history is mentioned with some important touchpoints (like the concepts of High and Low Clans, and mention of the Convention of Thorns) but it’s really a pretty surface-level treatment that might leave new players a bit lost.

Still the basics are there, the immortal vampires nurse ancient grudges and have plans within plans to undermine their enemies. And while the players change, the conflicts seem eternal.

The Camarilla

The chapter moves on to talk about the Camarilla an it’s purpose and current state in the modern nights. This section is a little more extensive and segues nicely to The Six Traditions the framework by which the Kindred govern themselves.

The Anarch Movement

As a counterpoint to the Camarilla, the Anarch Movement is a group that is opposed to the order and government of the Camarilla. These are Kindred who dislike the old order and are more than happy to punch the Princes of the Camarilla in the mouth.

Autarkis

Straddling a middle line are the Autarkis, small societies of Vampires who are self-ruling, and have no need of the Camarilla. Unlike the Anarchs, they’re not entirely hostile but prefer to be left to govern themselves.

The New Normal

With the War on Terror, the Kindred have been outed to government agencies and the Vatican secret service, leading to the Second Inquisition. In reaction, mortals storm vampiric strongholds, driving the Kindred into hiding once more.

In reaction the Camarilla tried to wipe the databases that they could, and sent an edict that any Kindred caught contacting another online will be removed from the Camarilla and declared disloyal.

It wasn’t a perfect solution but it did stop the bleeding. The Kindred now find themselves in the grip of a second masquerade.

Do you know that weird disconnected feeling you get when you flip onto a good movie on TV but you’re somewhere in the tail end of the second act and you’re groping for context?

That’s kind of how I feel here. I know I’ve not been keeping up with Vampire lore, but I’d like to think that I and those like me who are generally “new” should be the target market for this chapter.

Sadly while I’m able to catch a bit of context from the summaries presented, I’m left without an appreciation for the Camarilla or the Anarch cause. Instead, I’m hoping that somehow if I do end up playing in a game of Vampire, someone will fill me in, or I can restrict my attentions simply to the concepts that come up.

Next up, we’ll be taking a peek at the Clans.

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

[Let’s Study: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition] Part 1: Introduction

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Vampire: the Masquerade is something of an oddity in my gaming career. I’ve read bits of the Revised edition, owned a copy of the Dark Ages corebook and loved the Bloodlines PC game to bits. The lore of the Clans was something that drew me in, and the macabre allure of playing a bloodsucking immortal creature that preyed on humanity (and often agonized over having to do so) was all good stuff.

But I never really got around to running it.

Fast forward to here and now. White Wolf is back, and the people who run it are hell bent to bring the bloody, disturbing and alluring nature of Vampire kicking and screaming out of the 90’s and into the modern nights.

The question now is, will they succeed?

This Let’s Study series will take a look at the various sections of the book, breaking down the setting and themes, the mechanics that power the game and will conclude with a review. Along the way I’ll give my impressions on subsystems, calling out any particularly neat or problematic ones.

Mature Content Warning

The very first page past the cover of the book is a strongly worded and clear warning of the nature of Vampire as a roleplaying game that uses dark themes and elements that could disturb people.

Vampire is coming back into the world stage in a moment where there’s a lot of strongly held opinions on sensitive topics. Vampire acknowledges these, and makes it clear that they’re engaging these elements as part of a work of game, and not as a means of celebrating or encouraging these things in real life.

Introduction

Vampire starts off rather abruptly. Instead of opening with a short story, the setting’s mood and general concepts are presented in the form of a number of different documents compiled by a certain older vampire to educate a newly embraced member of the undead.

It’s messy, the documents take on various voices, formats and points of view, but to those familiar with the old lore will find the little ways that this new edition was able to move the metaplot forward without resorting to reading about the amazing adventures of these NPCs.

In some ways, I appreciate the approach. Waking up as a Vampire isn’t a gentle process, and the harsh, almost cruel means of dumping all of this information is a good glimpse into the nature of vampires. But that said, as a vehicle of getting information across, it’s a bit hit and miss. After a few pages I was suffering a bit of fatigue from sifting though so many different documents. Individually each of the entries were interesting, but having to slog through them to get a bit of information here, and another there made it a poor example of a reference.

Maybe that was the intent?

Concepts

The next section, thankfully brings us to a less storytelling, and more factual explanation of the game. They go through the basics, the fact that the World of Darkness is a horrible place, and that Vampires, the very player characters, aren’t heroes. This doesn’t make a vampire game one with a permission to be run as a “Chaotic Evil Party” but it does put things into perspective.

Larger concepts, such as the large cornerstones of vampire society such as the Camarilla are discussed, as well as the new status quo, brought about by a Second Inquisition that has resulted in the destruction of several high-profile vampires, which has brought chaos and opportunity to vampires of all generations.

This section ends with a quick look at a sample of play.

This edition of Vampire sure knows how to make an entrance. Like the setting it now reflects, it’s apparent that the book wants to make a strong impression. Old players will find that a lot has changed, while new players might find themselves struggling to keep up.

In some ways, this edition reminds me of the Revised-era Mage: the Ascension. Everything has gone wrong, the elders are dead, and now it’s up to you to make something of yourself, if you’re clever, or cruel enough to do so.

Next up we’ll be paying a visit to Kindred Society

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

 

 

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