vampire

Merging old and new vampires

giovanni vampire masquerade

“Matia Michael Giovanni” by Mattew

Don’t worry, I’m not planning to cross-breed Edward Cullen and Dracula. The title refers to my rekindled passion for Vampire role-playing games, both Masquerade and Requiem.

You see, Masquerade will always have a special place in my heart. It was the RPG that got me into the hobby, and I will never forget my first sessions playing a Toreador poet in the city of New York. Since these first hours of pretending to be a vampire, Masquerade has been the game I must have played most often, with Exalted coming in as a close second. The game had messed-up rules and some really annoying metaplot, but I still feel like it’s one of the best RPG’s I’ve played. Maybe it was just that good, or it’s my nostalgia giving me rose-coloured glasses, but I  feel like returning to the world of the Kindred once more.

There’s just one problem: the rules of Masquerade are an unstructured, frustrating bunch of contradictions and redundancies. As much as the setting was able to evoke the feeling of gothic horror the game was going for, the rules always failed to support that. Fortunately, Masquerade received a proper update awhile ago, in the form of its 20th Anniversary Edition. The rules are much cleaner now, but it still lacks that certain…sex appeal.

Requiem has a lot of sex appeal and I would love to use its ruleset to run a Masquerade game, but the rules of the new World of Darkness incarnation of Vampire support some other themes. For example, Generation is replaced by Blood Potency, giving age an entirely different flavour in the game. There is a Translation Document, which would make conversions easier, but I still don’t know if that’s worth the hassle.

Rules are just one issue, the other one is the actual game. I noticed that I simply lack the time to create big chronicles on my own, so I would have to resort to pre-written stuff. Fortunately, Masquerade has two big chronicles: the Transylvania and Giovanni Chronicles. From what I heard, the second one is a lot better and less railroady, and I’m actually reading through its first part to get a feel for it. It looks like something my players would like, so I’m thinking about giving it a shot. I would still have to talk it through with my players, but the general look and feel of the Giovanni Chronicles seem great!

So, while I’m figuring out which rules I would use, you can help me! What are your experiences with both Masquerade and Requiem? Have you played the Transylvania or Giovanni Chronicles? Do you think that I should not waste my time with bloodsuckers? Share your thoughts below!

Why White Wolf got me all hyped again

To be frank with you, dear readers: I owe my fascination for tabletop role-playing to the guys who brought us Vampire: the Masquerade and many more gothy titles. I’m talking about White Wolf, and these times are once again exciting times to be a White Wolf fan.

Basically, I love every game this company has published. Though I haven’t played all of them, if you would kick in my door and ask me to play in a Wraith chronicle, I would please ask you to fix my door and then grab my ten-sided dice. It’s something about the style these guys (and probably gals) have, and every rule and sourcebook from their writing forges is like a little masterpiece. Yeah, I’m exaggerating here, but that makes my point: White Wolf is the beginning of my role-playing career, and it will be my end. But not just yet, ’cause these heroes and their “daughter company” Onyx Path have a lot in the oven when it comes to feeding my gaming ADD:

  • First and foremost, Exalted 3. I freaking love Exalted. It’s not so much the clunky and often problematic rules I love, but the sheer proportions of the setting. When it comes to high, epic fantasy, Creation is my homebase, and there’s always some corner of the vast world that’s worth discovering. With Ex3, the rules and setting get a major overhaul, and I’m more than curious to see how the Chosen are put into a new, divine light. The Kickstarter for this should drop this month, so I’m holding on to my money!
  • Next up, the new World of Darkness is getting some major love with Mummy: the Curse and God-Machine Chronicles. The former brings a new splat to the nWoD, while the latter combines a kind of “1.5” rules update and chronicle in one for mortal characters. The other lines are getting re-worked books as well, so the entire world gets a fresh breeze of air.
  • Finally, there’s the ever-continuing support for the old WoD. After releasing the 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire: the Masquerade, White Wolf / Onyx Path continue to publish re-worked and new books for the world that revolutionised role-playing games.

It’s hard to describe how pumped I am about all this, but you will surely hear more about all these new titles on this blog. In the mean time, I’ll be off to the drawing board to plan a Solar chronicle to dive right into Ex3 when it hits!

Three physical traits my player characters (almost) never had

“Sokka, the real Fire Lord” by kyrio

Tabletop role-playing games are praised for teaching people creative skills and having them think in abstract ways. Trying to visualise ever-changing pictures in front of your mind’s eye certainly trains your fantasy, and it is exciting to pretend your someone else for a while. Of course, if you’re gonna slip into another skin for a while, that skin should obviously beautiful. It should be a muscular, intimidating orc who brings fear to his enemies without even lifting a finger, or a gracious elf, with beauty that is the stuff of legends. In a way, you want to compensate for the lack of perfection your own mortal coil holds. Such a being has no room for ugly warts, some nasty affliction or a strange hair colour, for that would ruin the Adonis your mind has chiseled from the stone of dreams. Why play something ugly, when for once, you can be the most attractive dude in the tavern?

While I understand that role-playing games offer a form of escapism that enables you to be more than you are in real life, it often saddens me when players describe their characters and they are just the most awesome example of their race. It seems like many players don’t want to take risks, and prefer to play the physical perfect character. Sadly, that means that many characters I have seen in my life (or that I have played, for I am guilty of this as well), can be summed up with the same clichés: beautiful hair, enchanting eyes, broad shoulders yadda yadda. Such descriptions make me long for things I rarely see under the header “physical description” on a character sheet, and in this article I sum up the three physical traits player characters of my players (or myself) almost never possessed!

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TSWoD – Anima stat, overlapping templates and more!

Another day, another post about my endeavour to dip the World of Darkness in the awesomesauce that is The Secret World. In the previous post, I talked about the basic premises of this project, and today, we will take a look at the only “homemade” rule, along with some ramblings about the material used. Get your spells and conspiracy theories, we’re going in!

Anima
In TSW, a creature’s Anima is its life force. It is something that runs through everything on this planet, but that can only be controlled by a few. Sorcerers control their own Anima to empower their spells, and hideous creatures from the Hell Dimensions seek this essence out to consume and devour it. While Anima is no resource in the MMORPG, it is an aspect that separates the player character from many other agents in his secret society. Swallowing a bee sent by Gaia gives one the power to manipulate Anima, which is quite helpful in the fight against draugr, vampires and the Filth.

In order to measure all supernatural creatures on an identical scale, TSWoD could use Anima as a power stat and power pool. Like Vampire’s Blood Potency and Vitae, or Werewolf’s Primal Urge and Essence, TSWoD’s Anima would measure a creature’s supernatural capacity and ways to manipulate Anima. The latter should be interpreted in the broadest way possible. An old sorcerer would have have the same Anima rating as a vicious demon, but both would show their bizarre powers in different ways. Anima would be a unifying stat, that makes it easier to compare the rather varied palette of otherworldly beings in the setting.

In many ways, Anima would work like the Arete stat presented in Mirrors. It would provide characters with additional health, supernatural resistance, heightened Attributes and a way to heal bashing damage. Unlike Arete, Anima will also grant access to a pool of Anima points, which can be used to fuel the effects of Anima. Also, Anima might not grant any access to Masteries. I’ll get into the reason for that right…now.

The amount of cool stuff is too damn high!
As I have mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying to emulate the setting of TSW with just three books: the core book, Mirrors and Second Sight. Even though this is a small amount of books, it still offers a lot of options. If a player decides to create a character, both Mirrors and Second Sight offer treasure troves of powers, backgrounds and so-called “minor templates” (supernatural templates that do not have an own power stat and pool). I’m afraid that the both books, along with an Anima stat that grants additional supernatural power, will create far too mighty characters. Of course, additional rules can limit that, but I’m still not so sure about it. I guess the only way to see if it works, is to create a character…

Well, guess that gives away what we’ll be doing next time. In the meantime, please share your feelings about an Anima stat and the amount of cool powers found in Mirrors and Second Sight. I’ll be here to listen to your feedback. Stay alive!

TSWoD – The bare necessities

Continuing the train of thought that has left the station of my mind a few posts ago, I have spent my last days thinking about the best way to portray Funcom’s The Secret World in White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The two games seem easy to merge, but before doing so, I limited myself by using the following guidelines:

  • PC’s will be “normal” mortals who are initiated into one of the secret societies. This means that the players will  not take the role of Bee People. Why I made this choice will be explained later on.
  • The game focuses on the discovery of the secret world, and the slow descent into the mysteries kept away from the PC’s. While this seems like a choice of flavour, it will also impact some game system choices.
  • TSWoD should need a minimal amount of house rules, using mostly rules available from a small amount of WoD books.

You’re not special, all you can do is shoot lightning from your hands!
In the setting of TSW, it is rather special when Gaia sends out a bee to give a normal human some wacky superpowers and immortality. To keep them rare, I want players to play humans who have been introduced into the secret world in another, more subtle way than by swallowing a magical insect. Well, maybe not a more subtle, but in a more common way (by occult standards). Think of characters who have witnessed a vampire feeding, or who have learned magic in a special school. Player characters will have “kewl powerz”, but in a different way.

Delving into the darkness
The Secret World is about stepping into the darkness with just the light of a candle, and to boldly stride through this tenebrous world. Unlike most WoD games, it is not about handling one’s own supernatural nature, but about deciding if something is worth knowing, or if the price for it is too high. Because of this setting choice, I would drop any kind of Morality system entirely, and replace it by the Reason stat presented in Mirrors. The slow descent into madness, while gaining more power, feels more fitting to me for a TSW game.

I don’t want to carry all these books!
Let me be clear here: I am a terrible rules writer. I hate to formalise any kind of rule, and I always have the feeling that it takes some kind of special education to be a game designer/ writer. That is one of the reasons I want to keep the amount of “original rules” to a minimum for this project. The other reason is that I believe that the World of Darkness offers rules for most of the things we will need. Especially Mirrors offers a truckload of alternative rules, which fit TSW really well. At the moment, I can limit the amount of titles to three:

  • World of Darkness core book (well, duh)
  • Second Sight
  • Mirrors

This means that, if you have these books, you just have to follow my short instructions, and you are able to run a game in the TSWoD in no time. It saves me the trouble to re-write a system that is already good enough in my opinion, and saves you a lot of reading!

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I will shine a light on the only “house rule” I would add to TSWoD, and give you a short draft of the character creation. In the mean time, you are free to share your ideas and ask some critical questions. Keep your head up!

Between heartbreakers & rip-offs

Courtesy of Dark Phoenix Publishing. Y’know, just so they do not sue us for plagiarising…

Be honest, dear readers: who of you who has played a tabletop RPG for long enough has not dreamed of writing his own product? Have you not longed for creating a game that has everything you want, that does everything far better than the game you are playing now? If you should have ever followed your desires, you have probably written something called a heartbreaker, a game that surely is not perfect, but it looked perfect for you at the time.

There is nothing wrong with writing and playing heartbreakers. What is wrong, however, is to write and publish a heartbreaker, without actually indicating its inspiration and denying the source on multiple occasions. The game I am talking about is Vampire: Undeath, a title by Dark Phoenix Publishing. While it seems to be “just another vampire game”, Vampire: Undeath is such a blatant rip-off of White Wolf’s Vampire games (both Masquerade and Requiem), and as two reviewers of RPG.net claim, the publisher denies to have drawn any inspiration from the mother of all goth roleplaying.

Of course, it is hard to write a game about cursed bloodsuckers without crossing into White Wolf territory. For more than twenty years, they have milked the vampire mythos for all it is worth, and is hard to be original anymore. That is not the issue though. The issue is Dark Phoenix’ claim of originality, which shows nothing but arrogance. The line between writing a heartbreaker and publishing a rip-off is really thin, and as it stands now, Dark Phoenix Publishing has crossed it.