Vampire: The Masquerade was a huge part of my life in the 1990’s. I both played and ran my own games in L.A.R.P. and tabletop. The simple D10 system was easy enough for new players and I was able to attract even a few females to my games, something common now but at the time was very rare. Sorry ladies, but it was a boys club at the time sadly.
In the years following I had not really kept up with White Wolf publishing. Time makes people grow apart and my group has since spread out over the country and are raising families now. I knew about the changes to the game, with Vampire the Requiem a complete overhaul and not being very well received. I figured my days in the World of Darkness were done. With the release of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition though, I felt the urge to drink in the blood of this resurrected game once more.
After reading the intro story and other snippets of info included to introduce the reader to this dark world, I was excited to continue the game in the same vein I played 20 years ago. VTM V5 is a direct continuation of the Second Edition of the game I loved so much. Everything that happened since has been removed like it never happened. Old players should feel very much at home. The clans, vampire powers, and systems are all there. They may be tweaked but I found no problems quickly remembering and adapting. While the game does use “special dice” they are just D10 with the numbers replaced with appropriate symbols.
At 430 pages, Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition may be a bit intimidating to some. New players especially will need some time to read and learn the basics. This is not game of “good vs. evil” and players are encouraged to bring out their inner beast in these characters. You play a vampire, so be a vampire. The World of Darkness is like our own world, just twisted and corrupt beyond even our current state. Morality is skewed and the player must embrace their dark side in this game. The trivialities of the human world are no longer your concern. You have been Embraced and are Kindred.
In Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition the current leadership of the Camarilla, a group in charge of maintaining “The Masquerade”, a set of rules to keep humans unaware of the existence of vampires, is dealing with a shift in power, and are no longer running things. Most newly made vampires are no longer automatically recruited to this hierarchy and a new group, the Anarchs, made up of neonates bucking the system, are where many end up. The Sabbat, a group of pure evil bent on the destruction of the oldest vampires, the Antediluvians, are all but erased. This saddened me, as the Sabbat were always a good choice for a group of villains in my previous campaigns.
Players must create a newly made vampire per the instructions in Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition. The book does a fantastic job leading new players through the processes. There are six clans to choose from (and those who do not know their bloodline, the Catiff), each having similar social traits that tend to bind them and led to your character being chosen to join them in unlife. Each also have access to different abilities and base stats. When creating a new group in a new campaign it is recommended your players consider how these characters will interact as they are generally considered to be in a team, or coterie.
Gameplay itself is still dependant on rolling a certain amount of 10 sided dice. When attempting something in game, the player declares the action and adds up the rating of the relevant skills to determine the amount of dice in the roll. For example, your character is attempting to shoot someone, they must add up their Dexterity and Firearms totals, so say 7. The player then rolls and any of those 7 die with a number 6 or higher is a Success. This total Success is put against the set amount needed to complete the task, get enough, and bingo, you did what you wanted or failed horribly.
Hunger for blood is something a newly made Kindred must always deal with. In Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition players have another set of dice specific to their current Hunger rating of 1 to 5. For each point of Hunger, the player must replace of their dice with these Hunger dice. These will factor into how the game accomplishes criticals and failures, leading to character lashing out and risking breaking the Masquerade, exposing their true nature to onlookers for example. A starving vampire will be less likely to care. Humanity is another trait of importance. This will measure how much the character adheres to their human side. Fake it till you make it.
Overall, fans of Second Edition will not find it hard to adapt to the few changes in gameplay. Using most of the original system and then fixing or borrowing things from the last 25 years of White Wolf games, the writers have managed to make the game less complicated in some ways and still maintaining the complexity of being a creature of the night. The constant threat of sucomming to the beast with Hunger is always looming, giving players a choice of feed or suffer and creating a baseline of how they handle their personal demons.
The political and social state of the current world is well portrayed in Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition and exemplified when needed to create an even darker setting. The possibilities are endless for game masters with a twisted side to create a campaign their friends will never forget. 20 years later my friends still remember my old Sabbat campaign. While not in the eye of popular culture at the moment, the vampire mythos will always be there, ready for a group to create a new adventure at their dining room table.
The book itself (this review is based on a PDF provided) is a nice hardcover with some impressive artwork and photography. While the original artwork of Tim Bradstreet will always be the epitome of Vampire: The Masquerade to me, White Wolf did a fantastic job updating the feel of the game to modern times with the various artists. Even though I was unable to put together a game by the time of this writing, I still enjoyed just reading the fiction included as well as learning how much things have changed since I left. If you can find a group of open minded folks who want a change of pace over the usual high fantasy role playing games, Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition is a perfect choice.
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition is available now where books are sold. This review is based on a digital copy provided.