Review: Vampire: The Masquerade (Table Top)
Vampire: The Masquerade is the original and ultimate roleplaying game of personal and political horror. You are a vampire, struggling for survival, supremacy, and your own fading humanity—afraid of what you are capable of, and fearful of the inhuman conspiracies that surround you.
Ok so let’s get this out of the way. I have never played a game in this series before but have seen it when I go into board game shops or seen p[eople playing it in a corner of some gaming night hall. For me what happened here is I introduced it to my small Dungeons and Dragons crew. Beforehand I read the manual page to page and then when I was sure I read it all, I read it again and made notes.
Not happy with just reading the new book, I felt it only right to delve back into the older books and resources to not only see what has changed, But also what has been improved or maybe missed in the new book.
Immediately the book caught my full attention, The art is dark, Gothic and full of intrigue. I loved the many designs as I lost myself in the pages upon pages of these twisted outfits and scenery pictures. I knew I was in for a treat, I just didn’t know how much.
Ok so this time around the rules have been revamped and in a lot of places completely reworked. The setting is now a current day theme so instantly allowed me to just go nuts with world building. I mean I live in a world full of inspiration, I say inspiration it is more like misery with occasional sunshine but anyway having it the current day will make it a lot more approachable to new players.
Vampire: The Masquerade is a role-playing game like Dungeons And Dragons, You have a GM or DM who is in charge of telling the story, Controlling the enemy and the holder up of rules. Also its the person everyone comes to hate when things go south! For a short straight to the point description: You play as a vampire and must feed in order to stay *alive*.
Long term you need to spend hours creating your character, Pick from the many clans/families, Maybe draw a picture of your character, Create a family line or add a hero or a tutor who taught your ways. Think up who turned you, How you turned and what is life like. It is this deep character creation that really starts off the creative spark within you. We spent one whole game night session just shooting ideas and writing down facts about my character and the world he comes from, It was very exciting and fun.
The book will go into huge detail on the families/clans and bloodlines of the main houses as it were. This got annoying as I landed up having to either condense a description of them down or take time out and print off sheets for everyone. But having this info is very important as it helps character building and gives ideas to everyone even the GM (Gamemaster) as it allowed me to look at warring families etc.
Simple easy to use character sheet. By simple I mean it is just a series of clearly printed boxes and not as deep and long-winded as a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. I soon realized my party could fill in the sheet with minimum help even our son who is 12, He managed to grasp everything a lot quicker, Maybe having D&D experience helped? But I still believe its the simple layout sheet.
We had a small party of players, They recommend 3-5 players and our team was 5 so we were at the top end but to be honest I did have the Mrs act as a vice GM so I could attempt to take everything in and still keep the game running.
So what do you need to play a game of Vampire: The Masquerade? Well, we used the corebook, A character sheet each then a pad of paper and pencil with a handful of dice. Ordinary dice (You can buy Vampire: The Masquerade themed dice but are not mandatory)
Time is one of the biggest concepts within Vampire: The Masquerade. Time is used to measure game sessions, The book suggests (and we used it successfully) breaking sessions into named timed elements. So one “session” would be a chapter, We called a week a session and then the overall adventure would be a story. The book explains the reasoning and it all checks out. Playing it in increments like this is beneficial to all players as it makes scenario building, playing and determining good and bad timers clearer.
You get an overall intro of text to help set the mood and get all players singing off the same sheet, Like a scary Vampire movie, You get introduced to the world, characters and …….
Like in D&D actions and interactions are all determined by tests performed with dice and stats on your character sheet. The GM will say the score needed to be successful or fail. After research, I found even just this simple mechanic is a change from previous games. Before you would go by a set number to fail/succeed whereas her fail/success is determined by successful rolls.
The other biggest concept is the one that I personally found really cool and would love to use in D&D. Relationship map- As you interact with people you fill their name into the sheet then a brief description of who they are to you and how you get on with them, For example, they love me or hate me. The relationship map is sweet as it is a constantly changing web of interactions and betrayals. You can easily and quickly recall previous character encounters, Use info already gained in order to get something. Now I have made it sound all clean and fresh. In reality, it was a mess for so many ways. Lines coming off here there and everywhere, It looked like a brainstorming session explosion. Eventually, I got it under control, Calmed down on interactions and actually split up the map into equal parts for all players.
Not sure exactly how it worked previously but hunger in this game is a constant resource you need to maintain in order to survive. Juyst being a resource is not enough though for now refilling your blood is actually the crux of your character. Are you a heartless killer who doesnt care who dies as long as you get food, Or do you pick on the weak or dying? Maybe you hit blood banks? Its so expansive that its awesome.
So we managed to get through two stories, I messed up many times and arguments were commonplace but at the end, we all sat down and evaluated it. (More to help me with content for this review) We came to the consensus that whilst we still had a few niggles with mechanics and when and when not to do tests, The actual core game and world building were superb. The book gave everyone enough information that they could either run stories from the book or acts as a really solid foundation for you to build upon.
As GM I played it in a way that made it all manageable, Current setting helps but I never felt on the back foot, Of course, I am lying. The first week was pure hell as I stumbled and mumbled my way through interactions. But that is part of the experience at the end of the day and Re-reading parts of the book helped counteract mistakes.
In conclusion, the whole party came out wanting more, We love D&D we really do but playing a game like it but doing current things like hacking phones, Stealing cars, Hijacking blood drives, It just gives more scope. It is safe to say that the book did its job and from I have researched, The rules are better optimized. As a new player, I found the rules and mechanics easy enough to pick up and learn. Safe to say this is the game we play for a long time now. You can put in as much or as little as you want but the book will usually have all the answers and is written well but the art is the true hero.