Vampire RPG

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Morglum
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Vampire RPG

Post by Morglum » 22 Apr 2021 13:51

With Nerull's vampire guild coming soon(tm) I thought that it might be a good time to write a short article on one of my favorite RPG settings which is the World of Darkness and their take on vampires (perhaps it'll even give Nerull some ideas for last minute additions).

Intro

30 years ago the first edition of Vampire: the Masquerade was released. Over the years it went through different iterations up to the current 5th edition (released last year). There was also a reboot/offshoot in the form of Vampire: the Requiem which is set in the Chronicles of Darkness - an alternate version of WoD. I'll try to briefly outline the major concepts and differences between 3 most commonly played versions (V20 - VtM 20th anniversary edition, V5 - VtM 5th edition and VtR) as they have 3 quite distinct approaches to how you play a vampire.

The system

All 3 versions (and, in fact, all the games in WoD and CoD like werewolf, mage, wraith etc.) use the same underlying game system that hasn't really changed much since it's inception. After all, why would you change it? It's one of the slickest and best designed systems in RPG history in my opinion and its core concepts can be explained really easily:

Your character has attributes (strength, dexterity, charm, wits etc.) and skills (medicine, brawling, firearms etc.) which have "dots" as levels that go up to 5 (up to 10 for some supernatural shit). When checking if your action succeeded you roll relevant attribute + skill number of dice and count your successes (need at least one success, each roll of a 1 substracts from successes and can result in a botch). It's very simple and extremely flexible as the GM can adjust this as necessary - you can give bonus dice or take dice away, you can change the number of successes required or change what constitutes a success (usually need 7+) depending on the difficulty of the action or additional circumstances (having high ground, taking time to prepare etc.).

Unlike in most RPGs you don't get experience for killing things. You only get it through progressing through the story and finishing campaigns. CoD also adds the concept of beats and conditions that every character has and those can also give you experience. It's a really cool concept where every character has some flaw, vice etc. and has conditions associated with it. You get experience by indulging your vice and penalties when you fail to do so (but you can also suffer those penalites in order to resolve the condition and gain even more xp, good example here would be being an addict - you get xp for roleplaying your character and doing stuff you're addicted to but you can also try and kick the habit, which would also give you xp).

Different approaches to vampirism

OK, let's look at how different systems tackle being an immortal bloodsucker.

V20 is pretty much your vampire power fantasy. You choose your clan, which gives you access to 3 initial disciplines (vampire powers) and you can learn more disciplines later. The disciplines are very varied, from your typical vampire stuff like increased strength, haste, resilience, through more esoteric stuff like necromancy or blood sorcery to batshit crazy stuff like controlling time. You drink blood and then use it to power the disciplines. It's heavily reliant on politics and scheming. You start out as 10-13th generation vampire and your generation (how far removed from Caine you are) decides the limits on your power. You can decrease your generation by diablerizing (completely draining and killing) a vampire that has lower generation than yourself. It's quite frowned upon and also addicting so yeah...

VtR is my favorite as it's more focused on the personal horror rather than grand schemes and intricate politics (you still get plenty of politics and backstabbing but it's not the prime focus here). You get similar disciplines and all that power stuff to V20 but how you get stronger and how vampirism works differ quite a bit. Instead of generations you have blood potency which increases with age and age alone (no way to speed it up, you get stronger roughly every 50 years). The thing with blood potency though is that even though it makes you stronger it also requires you to feed more and on different prey - with low blood potency you're fine feeding off animal blood, then you have to move on to humans and at higher potencies you can only feed on other vampires. You can lower your blood potency by going into torpor (hibernation) but the problem is that you don't really know how long it'll last and you suffer nightmares and some memory loss (you go crazy). There's a constant tug of war between the human and the beast within you. With higher humanity it's easier to blend in (as you don't look like a corpse), you can even go out into the sunlight for a bit. With lower humanity the hungry beast begins to take over, it's harder to control your urges but you're also more powerful. It's really cool concept where you're trying to hold on to your humanity and not devolve into a mindless hungry predator.

V5 is basically a bit more streamlined version of V20 (they got rid of a lot of disciplines and instead merged them into others) that has more focus on the hunger. Whenever you're not fully sated as vampire (and the only way to be fully sated is to drain a human completely, meaning they die and you lose humanity) you have to change some of your dice in the pool into hunger dice (the more hungry you are, the more of them you get). There's smaller chance to succeed with those as one of the results will be hunger instead of a success. This represents your hunger distracting you and the beast constantly nagging at you to go hunt. It doesn't sound like too much of a drawback but when you roll more hunger than successes shit can really hit the fan. Imagine trying to sneakily lockpick the door when stealth is of the essence. Unfortunately you've undertaken the mission hungry, or you had to use too many disciplines beforehand which drained you. As you fumble around the lock you get too distracted by your hunger, breaking the lockpick. The beast within you can't handle the frustration and with a roar you grab the door and with a crashing sound break it out of its frame in entirety, opening the door but also alerting the guards.

Summary

If you ever wanted to try and play an immortal vampire in an RPG I think the World of Darkness is a wonderful way to do it as it's simple enough to get into even without much experience with RPGs but also deep enough to give you plenty of material to work with. The 3 versions I've outlined above are all excellent, each focusing on different aspect of being a vampire (from the mechanics standpoint, you can RP all aspects in any version). If you get into but get a bit bored with vampires it's then super easy to also expand into other supernatural creatures within WoD/CoD - spirit-hunting werewolves, reality-bending mages etc. etc. Just keep in mind that stuff in WoD is more focused on power fantasy/politics while CoD is more focused on horror (especially the personal kind) and they mirror each other.

Examples of mirrored systems:
World of Darkness - Chronicles of Darkness
Vampire: the Masquerade - Vampire: the Requiem
Werewolf: the Apocalypse - Werewolf: the Forsaken
Mage: the Ascension - Mage: the Awakening

The biggest difference is in the Changeling system. In WoD you play as a fairy that has adventures within the dreams, in CoD you play as a child who was kidnapped by fae and taken to their world where you were enslaved for who knows how long (might be centuries), with your body changed to better suit whatever you were being used for (like a chair, a hound, a cloud) - you somehow managed to escape and return to the real world only to discover that either centuries passed or just a few minutes but now there's a doppleganger living with your family (also, the fae you escaped from sends hunters after you). Good luck.

Have fun!

Amberlee
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Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Amberlee » 22 Apr 2021 14:27

Totally don't haver all the VTM 5th ed books in the shelf.. Nope!
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If you ask for my opinion here, you will get MY opinion, not that of my character.

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Arman
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Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Arman » 22 Apr 2021 15:02

Genesis has had quite a few iterations of vampire guilds in the game... and it was the original one which resulted in this game getting its hooks in to me... the Vampyrs of Emerald. Those closed in mid-1994 from memory before I ever joined them (thematically awesome, terrible code), but it was the hook that originally drew me in to the game.

I still have some of their code sitting around as legacy... I used to love their guild titles:
"Servile Undead of the Shadow Elements", \
"Lesser Ward of the Shadow Elements", \
"Ward of the Shadow Elements", \
"Undead Walker of the Shadow Elements", \
"Ordainer of the Shadow Elements", \
"Lesser Celebdhel of the Shadow Elements", \
"Celebdhel of the Shadow Elements", \
"Ancient Walker of the Shadow Elements", \
"BlackWalker of the Shadow Elements", \
"Tribune of the Shadow Elements", \
"Novice BloodHunter of the Dark Elements", \
"BloodHunter of the Dark Elements", \
"NightStalker of the Dark Elements", \
"NightLord of the Dark Elements", \
"Raukamur of the Dark Elements", \
"Noble Raukamur of the Dark Elements", \
"Inquisitor of the Dark Elements", \
"Grand Inquisitor of the Dark Elements", \
"Legate of the Dark Elements", \
"Prince of the Dark Elements", \
"Moloch of the Deaths Elements", \
"Ordainer Moloch of the Deaths Elements", \
"BloodStalker of the Deaths Elements", \
"BloodMaster of the Deaths Elements", \
"BloodLord of the Deaths Elements", \
"Raukamur of the Deaths Elements", \
"Gogonaur of the Deaths Elements", \
"Noble Raukamur of the Deaths Elements", \
"Ashamite of the Deaths Elements", \
"Noble Gogonaur of the Deaths Elements"

Pretty cool. And their leadership titles:
"Ruling Undead of the Prime Planes"
"Lord of the Ethereal Planes"
"Undead Master of the Nether Planes"

The next iteration of vampires came out a few years after the closing of Army of Angmar, which was in 1999. It was quite slick... I think modelled closely to Vampires the Masquerade? They closed a few years later... recoded again... closed again. Truly a cursed guild! So no pressure Nerull ;).

Nerull
Wizard
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Joined: 05 Jul 2014 23:24

Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Nerull » 22 Apr 2021 17:20

No pressure - let's see if we can break the curse this time.

Surely, I borrow some elements from Vampire - the Masquerade. Granted, can't reveal the details, but it surely will be interesting. :)

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Morglum
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Joined: 13 Jun 2010 02:12

Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Morglum » 22 Apr 2021 17:32

Amberlee wrote:
22 Apr 2021 14:27
Totally don't haver all the VTM 5th ed books in the shelf.. Nope!
You mean these?

Image

;)

Amberlee
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Posts: 1525
Joined: 08 Mar 2010 19:50
Location: Kristiansund, Norway

Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Amberlee » 22 Apr 2021 22:22

Morglum wrote:
22 Apr 2021 17:32
Amberlee wrote:
22 Apr 2021 14:27
Totally don't haver all the VTM 5th ed books in the shelf.. Nope!
You mean these?

Image

;)
I see you are lacking Chicago By Night.. :D
The views posted by me on this forum is not the views of the character Amberlee in-game.
If you ask for my opinion here, you will get MY opinion, not that of my character.

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Morglum
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Joined: 13 Jun 2010 02:12

Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Morglum » 22 Apr 2021 22:32

5th from the left next to Cults of the Blood Gods :P

Moved it because my OCD didn't let me have color back in the midst of black ones.

Amberlee
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Posts: 1525
Joined: 08 Mar 2010 19:50
Location: Kristiansund, Norway

Re: Vampire RPG

Post by Amberlee » 23 Apr 2021 08:10

Morglum wrote:
22 Apr 2021 22:32
5th from the left next to Cults of the Blood Gods :P

Moved it because my OCD didn't let me have color back in the midst of black ones.
Yepp!
Apparently I am blind!
The views posted by me on this forum is not the views of the character Amberlee in-game.
If you ask for my opinion here, you will get MY opinion, not that of my character.

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gold bezie
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Joined: 16 Mar 2015 19:29

Re: Vampire RPG

Post by gold bezie » 08 May 2021 23:22

so i guess watching true blood doesnt count? :lol:

kidding (even though the first season was not bad at all)
So i guess these are worth reading?
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.

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