Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Vampire Continuum

No, this is not a sourcebook for RIFTS. (Ba-dum ching)

As my gentle readers may recall, I was invited to play in a game of Vampire: the Requiem. I do not know the GM, nor do I know anyone in the group. I am going into this blind. The game is being held in public at a local game store, and it is a Vampire game of the table top variety (call me elitist, but I find something more dignified about rolling dice than I do playing rock-paper-scissors.)

Although I have never played Requiem aside from an incomplete demo I ran sometime in 2005, I have played and ran Masquerade back in my more misguided days. I generally have found that vampire games fall into a spectrum.

One end of the spectrum is the Interview with the Vampire realm. These games are mostly about weepy, painful introspection on the nature of death and blah blah blah. Yes, that interested me when I was an undergrad, but now I no longer wish to have my games focus much upon philosophy or morality. These games tend to have little action (not just ass kicking, but action as in characters doing things and any desire to have any sort of power is often scoffed at or discouraged by the GM. I refer not just to corporeal power (vampire super powers, lots of combat skills, etc.) but to any sort of power to influence your circumstance whatsoever: wealth, political clout with people who can actually make things happen, etc. The game is an exercise in holding on to your Humanity score and complaining a lot.
I recognize that the above is the extreme end of the spectrum, but I would be willing to bet that nearly anyone who has played vampire has had a gaming experience reminiscent of the one described above.

On the other half of the spectrum, we have Blade. I'm talking about the first movie. You have epic plots, you have guys in black who wear sunglasses at night. You have katanas and sub machine guns and lines like "Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill." Characters drive around in muscle cars and fight vampires to thumping techno music.
My tastes, in recent years, have tilted decidedly toward the latter.

I find it interesting to reference the last Vampire: the Masquerade computer game, which stayed (in my observation) very faithful to the source material... in that game, it is quite possible to complete a number of quests with a character who has lots of social skills and is built around Persuasion, Intimidation, or Seduction. However... there are a number of quests that can be settled only by a good old fashioned ass-whoopin.' If you don't invest in some kind of powers or combat abilities, finishing the game will be very difficult, if not impossible.

So what was missing all these years? The Bladeness.

In high school, I knew some guys who played Vampire. Their campaign started shortly after Blade hit theaters, and damn, did it show. The game featured spurious types of special anti-vampire ammunition, huge gun battles, melee battles in dance clubs, and a final epic battle against the Prince atop his fucking fortress tower, located in the State Capital of Nebraska. (Yesssssssssssssss!) The vampire bad guys had faceless hordes of SWAT goons, the heroes had silver weapons, and those guys had a fucking blast playing it (until the GMPC auto-killed the surviving PCs after the epic battle and revealed that he had planned it this way all along.)

Okay, so the ending really blew, but they enjoyed it, and years later I wish I had played in it instead of waiting for them to run something more "mature."

My continuum may be overly simplistic, but I've yet to find a vampire game that doesn't tilt heavily towards one of the endpoints.

As Friday approaches, I wonder where in the continuum this game approaches. What I'm really looking for, I think, is something that is tilted toward the Blade spectrum, but not all the way. Think of it as "moderate Bladite" if you have to give it a political party. I'd like a compelling story and maybe some mystery and intrigue, but I want that to be the sweet icing on the cake of a game about immortal badasses whose hobbies include techno clubs and face-punching.

I am unashamed, even if I could be considered to be "doing it wrong."

...aaaand that's what diversity means to me.


  1. I also think that has something to do with whether or not the GM/storyteller prefers the Sabbat or the Camarilla. I know a few guys who preferred the Camarilla so they tended to play less on the Interview with a vampire side, while the handful of people I knew who preferred the Sabbat(myself included) tended to run more blade-esque campaigns(pretty much a given when you've put every point you have in Vicissitude so you can melt people's faces off literally)

  2. Your preferences re: vampirey gaming are apparently identical to mine. The whole "struggle to retain humanity and suppress/coexist with the Beast" thing doesn't interest me. I'm already a lawyer.

    The White Wolf mechanics drive me absolutely insane, though, and I don't know that I'd ever run an action game with that system.

    There's always Risus ...

  3. Scott-

    I've actually been working on a post for a few days entitled "Rethinking White Wolf combat." While the new game mechanics are a lot faster than the old ones, it still isn't perfect.

    I've never played Risus. It's one of those games that has been on my "Get Around to It" list, which towers like a monolith over me. :)