This may come to no shock to you all, but your humble narrator was once an angsty teen. I know, hard to imagine right? Like any angsty teen growing up in the late 80s and early 90s we have a plethora of material to fuel us. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Blade, The Crow, The Lost Boys, Interview with The Vampire, The Craft… You get it.
*Author’s Note – If you haven’t seen ANY of those movies I highly recommend you have a movie night soon.
Back in 1991 the gang at White Wolf Publishing created the tabletop role-playing game: Vampire The Masquerade. Based on a Storytelling Engine, Vampire The Masquerade has one GM/DM, or Storyteller, guide players through the game as they struggle with being a vampire. Seduction, intrigue, politics, and feeding are just some of the things players will face as they venture from night to night. Vampire The Masquerade also introduces unique dice aspects such as Blood Dice and Hunger Dice. These dice represent how hungry a vampire is, or how much of their blood they can spend to do something extraordinary.
Not only was this one of the first mainstream RPGs to feature vampires, it also introduced an entire World of Darkness where players can play as Werwolves, Wraiths, and more.
As with any tabletop RPG, rules change over time and Vampire The Masquerade has gone through a couple of iterations. Coming in August 2018, the 5th Edition of Vampire The Masquerade will be hitting digital and physical bookshelves and I, dear readers, got an advance digital copy to look over.
If you have been following along with the metaplot of Vampire and World of Darkness, (if you haven’t, don’t worry), then you know that there was an event (Gehenna) that basically wiped out the vampires (or Kindred). 5th Edition, or V5 as we’ll call it from here on out, isn’t a reboot of the world, but rather new way for the Kindred to deal with the events of the past. There promises to be overarching plotlines that storytellers can use to create chronicles for their players.
I haven’t played Vampire The Masquerade since 1991 so I wasn’t around for the rules changes nor can I tell you how much is different from the original version. For me, Vampire was all about the lore. I owned multiple clanbooks and ancillary products because I loved the idea behind the World of Darkness, I just never played in it. I say this because it is important to understand that I went into V5 as a new player to the game, but not new to lore and ideology of Vampire The Masquerade.
Within the first few pages of the core rulebook you will be instantly flooded with page after page of just pure setting. Letters from other vampires, transcripts of secret conversations, notes from an examination that have been marked up. It’s a wonderful introduction to the world and coupled with the art and photos, helps puts the player in the perfect mindset in minutes. Immediately following the lore, the intro and rules set in, and there are A LOT of rules. The core rulebook is no light read. It’s over 400 pages of rules, lore, and more rules.
I thought to myself, “There’s only one way to properly review this.” and I started sending emails and text messages. Within minutes I had my crew and I was set. I am lucky enough to know some amazing actresses and outgoing people who all agreed that they would take part in some sessions so that I can review the core rulebook.
I have very few negative things to say about Vampire The Masquerade V5. In fact my biggest complaint has nothing to do with the actual rules, but rather the lack of a physical book. Having to manually scroll through page after page on my laptop, iPad, or phone was incredibly time consuming. I had to make notes about what pages players needed so I could easily get back to them. I know books are big and bulky but there’s just something about hearing the crack of the spine on that first open. It’s much easier for me to flip a ton of pages at once than it was to scroll through a digital copy. As an old school RPG player a lot of my rulebooks have sticky notes and tabs for easy access and with a digital copy I just can’t have that. My players also had a tough time endlessly scrolling trying to find the pages they needed.
I had asked my crew to do a little bit of prep (I linked them all to older editions of the clan descriptions) and OH WOW did they get into it. Don’t believe me? Take a look
Yup, that’s my wife and her friends vamping it up and taking this way more seriously than I thought they would. What happened next was the most intense Session Zero* I have ever experienced.
*Session Zero refers to the session where players create their characters. In a game like Vampire The Masquerade this is often best to be done in person so that they can all build off each other and determine their relationships as well as how they all came to know one another in this chronicle.
Together my players and I spent about 6 hours total going over every detail we can find and creating characters. My wife had gotten a head start and did some research on the older versions of the game. She was able to create an entire backstory the night before and was able to help the other players. This is where my note from before came into play. With so many rules scattered across so many pages there was a lot of confusion. It took us about 2 hours before we were at a point where we could easily move on. If I’m being completely honest, I think this would have gone smoother with a physical copy of the book.
After getting every set we ended up with two Malkavians, a Tremere, and a Thin-Blooded. While this might not make sense to you mortals, it makes for a very interesting dynamic. After about 6 hours of character creation, we were ready to dive in.
Vampire The Masquerade is, at it’s core, a storytelling game. While yes, there are saves vs X and players can check for traps and roll some dice, Vampire is different. Players use a d10 for all die rolls and instead of adding up numbers, you’re just trying to get higher than a 5 for a “success”. A natural 10 is a critical success and counts as two successes. I’m not going to get into each mechanic of the game but I will tell you that Vampires have A LOT of powers. So dice rolling will happen a lot. Like any good RPG, Vampire makes sure that story overrules dice rolls.
New to V5 is a revamped Hunger mechanic. This, to me, is the most interesting aspect of running a chronicle. Each time a vampire has to use certain powers they have to quell their hunger. Get too hungry and a The Beast takes over and a vampire can think of nothing more but to eat and only eat. Represented by a different color (usually red) these hunger dice will replace a vampire’s regular dice pool the hungrier they get. Making challenges much harder.
In addition to all the rules, there is the lore and “The Masquerade”. Vampires hide in the shadows to protect themselves and their lineage. Combing secrecy, intrigue, politics, and managing hunger makes for some excellent legs for your chronicle to stand on. The core rulebook gives you so much information that it’s overwhelming. So my advice would be to take your time and learn as you go.
White Wolf has taken great care to give players a new, revamped edition of Vampire The Masquerade with V5 and I am beyond honored that I got a chance to sneak a peek at the core rulebook. I have spent countless nights reading and rereading sections trying to come up with stories to draw my players in. After we finished our second session I thanked my players and told them that I had enough experience to write my review. Every single one of them agreed that they were way to invested and having way too much fun to stop. We all gathered around and scheduled our next session, so I guess I am now running an ongoing chronicle… and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Vampire The Masquerade V5 launches later this year and White Wolf wants me to go broke. There’s this amazing collectors edition with the core rulebook, two extra supplemental books, and the most beautiful vampire dice. I want it. I want it bad. If you want to pre-order the book now we’ll attach a link below for you to do so.
Like most vampires, Vampire The Masquerade has awoken from it’s slumber and is ready to take the world by storm. I, for one, am happy to be along for the ride. Pre-order here.
The author was given a watermarked pdf of the core rulebook for review purposes.