Twenty-seven years ago Vampire: The Masquerade was released in 1991, and it’s been through a few iterations thus far along its journey. Our newest RPG show, Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night is diving into the Vampire: The Masquerade’s Fifth Edition and the World Of Darkness it resides in. If you’re as excited about it as we are, but aren’t familiar with the universe, here’s a crash course get you up to speed.
The hunt is on. White Wolf storyteller Jason Carl took Victor, Annabelle, Jasper, and Nelli G into their first foray into the undead nightlife of L.A. One of the underlying themes of the first session was the beast, an ever-present hunger always prevalent in the minds of all vampires. To avoid all spoilers that’s all I’ll say for now; you can get caught up over here.
Blood, the beast, hunger, and the slipping loss of humanity are central themes to Vampire: The Masquerade and have been since the game’s release. In V5 (Vampire: The Masquerade’s 5th edition), these concepts are thrust to the forefront and here is an updated guide on why vampires need to consume blood—and what’s at stake if they go too far.
You Are What You Eat
Blood is far more than a few platelets, some DNA, and a bag filled with plasma to vampires. Every night a vampire must expend some of this essence in order to rise. Without it, their bodies grow withered and corpse-like, eventually fading into an eternal slumber until they can gain more blood. The powers of the undead, from hiding to enhanced speed, often require the expenditure of blood themselves—further increasing the need for the hunt. To vampires, blood is the life essence of a mortal soul. Moreso in V5 than any prior edition, when you feed from a human you gain a rush of emotions, and even more when you kill the target: memories, resonance, and even Dyscarias that enhance your undead abilities.
Dyscrasias are perhaps the newest trait in this edition. They are incredible intense emotions built over years inside humans and the subject of a great prize for kindred to hunt. In order to level up or increase your discipline of say, Obfuscate (the ability to hide), you have to hunt humans who are woefully melancholy. Slaking your thirst on a subject might award free experience to develop obfuscate or additional activation dice to do so. Importantly, it makes feeding for the undead more than just a pit stop at the Circle K, and adds a theme floor flavor and style of humans that vampire prefers. After all, a vampire who is constantly terrifying his victims to enhance his power might be easy to track down…
The Beast is the term for the gut-wrenching predatory desire to hunt, drink, and kill that drives all vampires. Every night of existence for the immortal creatures is a potential struggle between a conscious thinking individual and an apex predator without ambition or desire. When a vampires beast comes takes, control the character loses all semblance of being that players character. Now controlled by the storyteller, your vampire character may decide to devour loved ones or run for its life in the fear of fire. The beast can rear its head at unexpected times as well, just like last Friday in L.A. By Night when Victor’s rose to the surface, causing even a Ventrue to consider violating his own feeding restriction as he buried his fangs in the neck of a college kid for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Furthermore every time your character feeds there will be a rush to drink a little further, just a little further than before, because there is power in taking the life.
But Wassail is what is truly feared. When The Beast takes over in V5 completely, your character loses the Last Drop of themselves and goes out in a spectacular frenzy. All of their attributes and scores increase to 5 for that scene and the beast is fully unleashed. Should the character somehow survive the incredibly violent scene then they become a wight. A wight is a cunning predator that only cares about hunting and feeding with only a shadow of its former life. Rather than having a PC die, having your character becoming a wight is a more interesting outcome I’ve always felt. There’s tension in knowing that somewhere out there, this hollow beast stalks and hunts, just waiting for the next easy meal to come by.
Humanity… And More
Your Humanity score is on a scale from one-to-ten and determines how inhuman you really are. A vampire’s humanity score has been something of an eye roll in past editions of V:TM. Characters with super-high humanity are tedious to be around and every long-term player has heard the tale of characters getting away with murder. Meanwhile, low-end humanity vampires became something of an excuse for players to engage in twisted fantasies with their character. Some games even eschewed humanity entirely, finding the constant policing of a character’s actions annoying. Paths of Enlightenment were alternative codes of ethics that gave the characters purpose and direction to control their beast, but those were mostly found in the now absent Sword of Caine.
In V5, Humanity gets a (much-needed) overhaul. There are clear and tangible rewards for roleplaying a character maintaining the pinnacle of virtue at Humanity of 10. They appear as mortals in good health for starters, though a bit pale. Additional benefits like staying awake in the daytime and being able to taste, eat, and digest food is a godsend for shaking off hunters. Each level of Humanity has mechanical benefits or penalties—you can be a Humanity 2 murder bot, but nobody likes you.
Of course, being a paragon of Humanity who never lies, never steals, and puts compassion into practice may rile your vampiric friends with your holier-than-thou presence. For the truly enlightened vampires though, there are Lore Cards in the back of the V5 book that hints at ways to grow along Paths as they study their Cainite condition. Maybe one of the L.A. By Nights characters might just unlock those mysteries…
What are your favorite hunting stories from Vampire: The Masquerade? Do you think this is the last we will hear of Victor’s frenzy? Let us know in the comments below!
Are you ready to jump into the World of Darkness? Be sure to join us for Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night at 8 PM Pacific this Friday, September 14th for the premiere airing on Twitch and Alpha! Not an Alpha member? Get a free 60-day trial at projectalpha.com with code BITTEN!
More Vampire: The Masquerade Gaming goodness!
- GM Tips For VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE’s 5th Edition Relationship Charts
- A Look Back at VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE’s Various Incarnations
- PRINCE’s GAMBIT Compresses The Immortal Intrigues of VAMPIRE Into A Half Hour
Featured Image: Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.