Posted by: markfender | August 6, 2013

V:tM 20th – Appendix

It’s 528 pages. Of course there’s an Appendix.

Joining the Black Parade

Joining the Black Parade

The Appendix starts out with Merits and Flaws. These are “optional,” in the way that every other book published after the Companion assumes you’re using them. They cost freebie points in character creation. Taking Flaws can give you up to seven more freebie points, but you can buy as many Merits as you want. These are pretty typical that you’ve seen in hundreds of other games: things like One-Eye, Disfigured, Iron Will, etc. There are specific ones to the vampiric condition as well, like Eat Food, Repelled by Garlic, Early Riser, and the like. However, the Social Merits in this book are almost all new (at least, to me) and are actually pretty awesome. Things like Broken Bond, Rival Sires, and Former Prince are great hooks for characters and actually excited me more than anything else in this book. I’ve got at least a half dozen new character ideas for whatever vampire game I play next (probably not this one).

Next we have Ghouls. This section was pretty decent as well because it went a step farther than most ghoul discussions go, including complete character generation for them. It seemed like an extra step that wasn’t really necessary for the book, but I appreciate its inclusion. However, I have to say the rules are slightly more complex than I thought were necessary. In a game where everyone is playing ghouls, extra bits about penalties for having too much vampiric blood in your system may provide extra details, but when the previous 500 pages are all dedicated to vampires, it seems like overkill. I’m sure this was adapted from some book previously published all about playing ghouls, but it did seem a little like too much information. This section also included Tzimisce War Ghouls (but no real creation system for playing one) and Revenant families. I wasn’t expecting this information in this book, but it’s still nice to have. I always liked the ghoul family idea. Basically, these are families that have had so much vampiric blood pumped through them that they’ve had specific traits bred into them. Most of these are Sabbat families as the Tzimisce are the primary creators of them. There’s an odd note that ghoul families tend to be pretty depraved, getting involved in all sorts of seedy activities including “fringe-movement political activism.” You know, like the Tea Party.

Next we have Sabbat Ritae. So, for those keeping track at home, we’ve got specific Backgrounds for the Sabbat, specific Bloodlines for the Sabbat, an entire chapter dedicated to their alternate Paths, tons of ghoul families that are specific to that Sect, and now four more pages of rites that they practice. Guess they’re the most important Sect.

Finally, we have a good-bye letter from V.T., a game term glossary, and HOLY SHIT AN INDEX!!! It’s actually a good one, too. This might be a first.

Final Thoughts

So, there’s Vampire: the Masquerade. I went over why I think it’s a good game in my Introduction and I still think that’s true. While I prefer Requiem for my political vampire games now, I do have a nostalgic fondness for this game. It did the political game that I never realized I wanted until it existed. However, this has not been all that fond a look back. In fact, I think I had more nostalgia for this game before I started looking at this book. I was disappointed in the amount of setting material in this one. Granted, it did have a billion powers to detail (which certainly do inform the setting), but I was expecting a little bit more from books like Guide to the Camarilla to work its way in. Instead, most of that setting information was about the Sabbat, the least interesting group in the old World of Darkness. The five Covenant split in Requiem is way more interesting, even if only one Covenant shows up in a particular game. But, unlike this game, all of those Covenants are playable, whereas I’m not sure the Sabbat makes for a great game (and good luck with your Inconnu or Tal’Mahe’Rah game). So, while the initial political setup is good (it obviously spawned years of gaming for me), the new political setup in Requiem is far superior.

I know I already stated my preference for the Requiem Clans, but with the sad proviso that I missed some of the old Clans. Except, reading back over them, I don’t think I do. A lot of my love for the Setites came from what I did with the Setites in my own game, not what the book was telling me. There’s the kernel of a good idea in them that wasn’t explored in this book. Instead, we get “evil god. Evaaaaaalllll!” In fact, I think the thing I like most about the Clan setup that isn’t present in Requiem is a sense of history. Things like the Cappadocians, Old Clan Tzimisce, and the rise of the Tremere are interesting hooks that Requiem doesn’t do (due to its more modular approach). But as for the old Masquerade Clans? Yeah, no nostalgia for them whatsoever. I guess I’ll just make a mental note to make sure there’s some history involved in the Clan NPC groupings the next time I run Requiem (whenever that will be) and be done with it.

The only thing I still think I prefer from Masquerade is Generation. It invokes an important idea for political games: your Elders are more powerful than you. You can’t beat them in hand-to-hand combat, so you’ve got to outmaneuver them. It practically insists on political shenanigans if you want to get ahead. This isn’t quite the same in Requiem with its Potency system. The differences in Potency are much less exaggerated and ratings can change more easily, lessening the impact that Age has on the game. Luckily, this is a really easy change to make in Requiem and I might just do that next time.

As for the rules. I already knew I didn’t like them. I still don’t. Their janky Difficulty system didn’t get any better with age. The stick over carrot approach involved in personality mechanics also isn’t great. We’ve got carrot-games now, like FATE or Cortex+. (You’ll note that God Machine Chronicle, a “not really a second edition” book for the new World of Darkness game adds in a lot more carrot systems, like Conditions and Beats). Game systems have evolved and this one hasn’t. Granted, it’s still more modern feeling than something like D&D, but it is showing its age.

So, yeah, Vampire: the Masquerade is pretty much dead to me (ha!). It was good for its time. I have to give it high marks for the amount of time I spent playing, thinking about, and obsessing over it. But the new game is better. So let’s go play that.

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