white wolf

Making vampires scary again


“TODAY SKETCH:Vampire The Masquerade-Clan Nosferatu” by DottorFile

A few days ago, the lovely Kojitmal commented on one of my posts about Fixing Elves, saying the following thing:

I know this is all done and said a gazillion times now, but I really do think it`s time we step away from the teen vampires, sparkly or not. Can we make vampires scary again, please?

Well, I believe we can! Thanks to this interesting question, I will devote a whole post to the blood-sucking fiend who introduced me to proper role-playing games and what made them way scarier than those angsty, sparkling posers of recent years.

Before I continue, I need to clarify myself a bit. In this post, I will talk about what I find scary about vampires. That’s the whole problem with making something scary: what gets others screaming like a little girl, causes nothing but a “meh” and a smile in others. Just like my friends and I are divided about the creepiness of Paranormal Activity (I almost soiled myself when I saw it), so are horror fans about the scariness of vampires.

With that being said, let me tell you about a boy who’s first impression of vampires came from Anne Rice and her books. Needless to say, the whiny, artsy and somewhat melodramatic vampires starring in Queen of the Damned, Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat weren’t really doing it for me. I enjoyed them, but Anne Rice made me feel like all the vampires of modern fiction had to be pale, sobbing weaklings talking about their emotions. Well, enter Vampire: the Masquerade.

Vampire: the Masquerade was my first serious role-playing experience. In the world created by the guys from White Wolf, vampires are many things: bloodsuckers, nocturnal politicians, power brokers and rulers of the night. But no matter which facade they choose, every “Kindred” in Vampire: the Masquerade is a monster, controlled by the destructive and primal urges of a concept known as “the Beast”. Most vampires are good at hiding their monstrous side, but sooner or later, the leach slips and out comes the side that is meant to eat and kill.

This is to me the first ingredient to making vampires scary: no matter their cover, they need to be animals. When you’re around one of them, you should feel like being a deer in front of a wolf. Their gaze should be unsettling, their presence dominating, and every word from their mouth a dagger in your stomach. When they restrain their thirst for your blood, you should still live with the fear that, at any moment, this person could leap on top of you, pierce your jugular vein with his teeth and suck the life out of you. Some vampires might wear silk and haute couture, but underneath it, they are all predators. Predators who want nothing but your red, sweet blood.

However, to amplify the feeling of fear and dread, we have to make sure that vampires remain human enough so we can relate to them. In Vampire: the Masquerade, every Kindred was once a human with hopes and dreams. Now, as an undead creature of the night, these hopes and dreams are shattered, and all the fledgling vampire has to hold on to are his last shreds of humanity holding back the Beast. Once those are gone, his darkest desires will be amplified by the power his vampiric form bestows upon him, and no concept of mercy or righteousness will hold them back. Essentially, a vampire needs to be an avatar of the evil inside of us, empowered by the curse of undeath. Only when we realize that humans have a Beast of their own, will we fear the evil done by a vampire even more.

Finally, vampires need to have power, but at a price. No matter if they use the power of their mind to force others to do their bidding, or kill their victims with claws of bone, we need to be aware that a vampire has power and will use it whenever he can. However, this comes at the price of never seeing the sun again, consuming the blood of the living and fighting back an incarnation of your darkest side. There’s nothing threatening about a supernatural creature that can be potentially powerful, but doesn’t use its power, or that has all these cool gifts but has no price to pay. True, intimidating vampires should be dark demigods, who are forced to live in the darkness of their own soul and to prey upon that which they once were.

Now, just remove the glitter and stupid female lead character, and I think we got ourselves some intimidating and dark vampires again. You can thank me (or disagree with me) in the comments below. I’ll be over here preparing my torches and holy symbols, in case I meet one of the badboys I described above!

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!

Actual Play – Courage Chapter III

courage logo

Wow, it’s been a while since one of these, but the wait’s over: click below for the third chapter of Courage, a solo Exalted chronicle. We’ll meet a Solar in this one, and find out that Courage’s secret are not as secret as he thinks they are. Want to know more? Well, stop reading this and dive into the three-and-a-half pages of RPG goodness. Have fun!

Courage – Chapter 3

Actual Play: Courage – Prologue

courage logo

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Courage – a Lunar solo chronicle! Before you scroll all the way down to fetch the PDF of the prologue, let me get a bit deeper into the background of this campaign.

It all happened in the fall of 2011. I had left my hometown behind to live a bit closer to my university, and that was really cool and all. The drawback was that I was away from my role-playing troupe now, which caused me to play about zero hours a week. This started to annoy me, but my friend (who I will call Dee for the sake of privacy) proposed that we might play something online. He had this cool concept of a shield-using Lunar, defending a city he loves, and I had an urge to see how Google Wave fared when used as a RPG tool, and so we had ourselves a little solo chronicle. That night, Courage was born.

But what is Courage? Well, you should rather ask who Courage is. Shield of Feline Courage is a young Lunar, who works as a male escort and dancer during the day, and slaughters the corrupt and frees the weak at night. His adventures take place in the city of Whitewall, and together with a whole team of colourful individuals, he will witness some great changes in one of the largest cities of Creation.

The chronicle never really ended, so I will only post AP’s up to one of the dramatic peaks of the story. Even though we never wrapped it up, I have to admit that running a solo chronicle is a lot of fun. Doing it online on Wave also felt like an exercise in cooperative writing, which is something both Dee and I really enjoyed.

The transcripts you will find here are mostly unedited. The only things I removed were the most obvious / obnoxious spelling errors and the dice rolls. I hope that you will have fun reading these, and if you have any thing to say about them, feel free to drop me a line.

With that said… click below to see the seven-page long prologue!

Courage – Prologue

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!