Vampires - The Masquerade 5 Edition is an RPG that uses the Storytelling System, written by White Wolf and located in Italy by Need Games. The basic 432 page manual will see the light of day Modena Play 2019 (along with other products that we have listed here). This edition, much discussed by some for the flattening of the clans and the metaplot that surrounds them, focuses all its attention on the character. We have reviewed the Quickstarter Thu.
Vampire Setting - La Masquerade
The World of Darkness is nothing more than the world we live in every day, where, however, a structured society of vampires is hiding. These nocturnal beings (mostly) hide from the sight of humans and span the centuries protecting the Masquerade. The great fiction with which they mix with human society and hide their very existence. Despite the almost divine power of some vampires, they are aware that humanity has the numbers and the means to wipe them out. Political intrigues, revolutions and inquisitions are part of this delicate balance with the human being.
Players will play relatively young vampires in Cainite society (the name by which they recognize themselves) grappling with the challenges of modern times. Although many of them do not reach the century of undeath, they will often find themselves having to deal with themselves, with the inquisition and with politics.
This edition is built around the character and the coterie (small group of vampires who work together for a common goal). Every star has to deal with his hunger every night, supreme mistress of all vampires, with his own morals and goals. It will be up to the player to choose whether to keep the glimmers of humanity in his vampire or to make the human being considered a slaughtering beast. The focus, in my opinion, of this edition is precisely this: what kind of monster do you want to play? What dramas will it have to do with?
The structure of the manual
The first thirty pages of the manual is composed exclusively of in-game documents that help build a mental image of the setting. We can find letters, files, documents, intelligence reports containing any type of information. Warning: Being in-game documents, there is an obvious possibility that there is incorrect or incomplete information.
Key concepts of vampires
This part is dedicated to those who have never heard of vampires and role-playing games. It briefly introduces those concepts that will be explored later and gives readers the first of a long series of examples. One of the strengths of the manual is the binary "Explanation + example" which helps to understand each rule and how it fits into the session.
The Society of the Brothers
We are in the section dedicated to the setting, where the nuances of the vampire society and the most recent events are described. Particularly important for veteran and novice players to understand how we are in a phase of great change in the World of Darkness. Absolute truths are found to be first cracked and then crumbled before the eyes of vampires, who must ask themselves if they want to protect the past order or embrace the new.
This section of the manual is dedicated to the description of the playable clans. Although longtime fans may find a very small number of available bloodlines, these are fortunately more than enough to cover any type of character you want to create. It is likely that such a choice is due to the desire to make this new edition a good starting point for those who want to approach the World of Darkness. After the description of the clan, we find the archetypes of the vampires that compose it, their disciplines and weaknesses.
All this is joined by the clan-free, those who have not developed any characteristics from a specific bloodline, and weak blood. The latter are vampires whose distance from Cain is so great that they can hardly be called true Cainites.
Creation of the Character and the Coterie
The very heart of the manual is the creation phase. In several games it is recommended to organize a zero session but this edition of Vampires will stimulate the players and the Narrator to the maximum. Before even putting a point to the attributes, the manual prompts people sitting at the table to ask themselves: Who was the vampire when he was alive? What relationships did he have as a human and which vampire? Does your sire still play a fundamental role in your life? What do you think of your companions and what relationship do you have with them? The relational map, the centerpiece of each vampire session, therefore comes into play. It is a map that keeps track of the thoughts, knowledge and events of all the characters, between them and the NPCs.
All these things help to tie the stories thought by the players with the Chronicle and to bring the character out of the cards. What people around the table are driven to do is get to know their vampire and coterie, before the Chronicle even begins.
Vampires: Truth and Lies
This section of the manual is ideologically linked with the first thirty pages, going to explain by thread and by sign what type of vampires will be played. Fear of the crosses and repulsion for holy water? Do you need to sleep during the day and destruction due to sunlight? Garlic and stakes? All these questions are answered on these pages.
Blood and Hunger in Vampires
As previously introduced, vampires will always have to deal with their own blood thirst. It translates into a very interesting mechanism summarized in: the greater the hunger, the greater the risk of behaving like a beast. This helps players always keep in mind the monstrous nature of their characters and use their resources with caution. Hunting is not a trivial thing and, with the growth of the vampire, murder becomes dramatically necessary to feed him. Obviously, being set in today's world, killing a person brings with it some serious problems.
Disciplines in Vampires
This section covers all the extraordinary abilities of the character. From animal domination to blood witchcraft. It is possible to find in this section very classic powers, already illustrated in hundreds of works on vampires, both new and intriguing skills. In this world, saying vampire says absolutely nothing about his abilities. Players can take advantage of this certainty to create what they like best.
Cities and Domains in Vampires
A Chronicle can be set in any city in the world you want. However, the manual suggests playing in your own. Particularly easy if the players are all from the same city, this choice greatly helps identification. Imagine the elementary school in which you have been as children, the streets where you go shopping every day, your favorite pub. You know the reputation of neighborhoods, the type of people you are most likely to meet. Players know the shadows of their city, this manual simply helps to give them a monstrous shape.
The Second Inquisition in Vampires
Vampires protect the Masquerade, the fiction with which they hide their existence from the world. However, someone managed to discover the existence of this hidden world and started a large-scale purge of any non-human creature. Although public opinion is fortunately still in the dark about everything, vampires have to watch their backs. Someone is actively chasing them, forcing them to abandon modern technology and most of the media. Having to deal with task forces that specialize in self-destruction makes even the most sociable of vampires an incredible paranoid.
The themes of Vampires and playing responsibly
The World of Darkness has many dark sides and it is easy in the Chronicles to come across bloody murders, sexual violence and a whole series of very delicate issues. Although the characters may be bloodthirsty monsters with a stony heart, the people around the table are not. An important part of the appendices is dedicated to playing responsibly. Both in close-knit groups and at tables at fairs, where playing with strangers, it is very important to pay attention to the sensibilities of others. In this regard, in the third appendix several methods are listed to allow the group to understand when it is the case not to go too deep with a given description.
The main rules of Vampires
The game uses and recommends two different types of ten-sided dice: one for traits and abilities and a second for hunger. When a character has to perform a non-automatic action (open the door, start the car, etc.) he builds with the Narrator a pool of dice composed of attribute + ability. From this reserve he then replaces a number of dice equal to his hunger. A die result that goes from 6 to goes up is considered to be successful. The starvation dice intervene in case of criticism and fumble. Finding a book by glancing through a list is an account, walking around the library destroying whatever is in your path is another. This "subtle" difference is all due to the hunger dice.
Despite this simple mechanic, the game invites players to play their characters carefully and expertly. Al Narratore instead recommends not to abuse the dice roll, trying instead to bet as much as possible on the narration of the players.
Conclusion, purchase and price
This edition of Vampires - The Masquerade is not designed for you to play with invincible beings who flout the laws of man. If this is the kind of experience you are looking for, this probably isn't the title for you.
This edition and this manual are aimed at those who want an intimate experience with their character. Play it if you want to live in the role of a monster who constantly struggles with his bestial side, trying to stay afloat in a world that wants him dead. Buy it if you want your vampire to go around your city, wondering how to feed without getting caught. Buy it if you want to live a monstrous and damned experience.
The Manual, including both the paper and the pdf, will cost around fifty euros. Don't miss this role-playing game pearl and enjoy the experience. In case you can't buy it in Modena, we recommend going directly to the Need Games site.