Find your fanciest goblet and your fitted costume fangs this week as we explore the city after dark with Vampire the Masquerade.
I say this in the most affectionate way possible; Vampire the Masquerade is one of the most 90’s tabletop RPGs to come out of the 90’s.
Originally debuting in 1991 and still going strong to this day with a 5th edition published in 2018, Vampire the Masquerade takes place in a “gothic-punk” take on our modern world, following your party of vampires as they handle the evening-to-evening (Get it? Because they can’t be out during the day?) dealings with vampire hunters, their own nature, and of curse the general politics of the greater vampire community.
I’d like to poke fun at both the very edgy nature of the game, and by extension a younger version of myself, but this was a unique and thoughtful game in many regards. Not many other games at the time focused primarily on the intrigue and potential political espionage that would always be at play in the backdrop of this urban fantasy, and another game may have focused on the vampire hunting portion of the world for a more classic dungeon crawl feel. But inspired by popular books and films at the time, the game was designed to focus on the more role-playing and social aspects of gameplay and world building.
Gameplay utilizes the Storytelling System with a few added mechanics focusing on bringing the vampire aspect of the vampire game to life. In general the Storytelling System consists of attributes and skills the player buys with points and represented on your page with circle. Each circle equals one potential d10 you the player can roll. The additional mechanics include “vitae” or the amount of human blood currently fueling their vampiric body to spend on special abilities and supernatural tricks and “humanity” representing their placement on the relatively-human-passing-to-absolutely-feral scale.
Since 1991, Vampire the Masquerade has enjoyed a number of successful incarnations with 5 editions of the tabletop RPG, a collectible card game, video games, a brief tryst with television, and a live action role playing (LARP) which a fourteen year old version of myself may or may not have played at least a few hours of at an anime convention years ago. But the system has attracted some controversy as well after 2018 accusations that they were purposefully catering to neo-Nazi groups and players. These claims were quickly squashed by producer Jason Carl who very definitely said, “White Wolf is a very diverse team,” Carl said in response to a question in Twitch chat, “and we feel that we are a global company and that we have a global community and that everybody is welcome in that community. Unless you are a Nazi or a neo-Nazi, or a member of any other hate group that uses these disgusting philosophies to advance your hateful agendas. If you are a member of one of those groups or support those agendas we don’t want you in our community. You aren’t welcome, and if we find you spreading your hate in our community you will be shown the door. We don’t want your money. You can keep it.”
Vampire the Masquerade is a game that said, “You know what people would enjoy? Pretending to be (usually) sexy undead immortals who want to explore their own relationship with good and evil” and popular media has been proving this concept right over and over and over again. It’s a little bit edgy and silly, sure, but it’s also a game that allows us to lean into that in-game desire in a way that’s pretty unapologetic. Tabletop RPGs are supposed to be fun, and honestly, vampires are pretty fun. What We Do In The Shadows made that really apparent.
Have you played Vampire the Masquerade? Which version of the game have you played and what kind of vampire did you pick? Which popular vampire-centric book / movie / television show would you want your vampire community to exist within? Let us know in the comments!