Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Let's Compare Editions! Part 8 -- Disciplines

Let’s Compare the different editions of Vampire: The Masquerade

Ah, Disciplines, the "fun" part of the game. Why bother playing Vampire if you don't get to play around with crazy and bizarre supernatural powers? Normally, I wax a bit philosophical before getting into the "meat" of any particular issue, but this time it's all about the mechanics and the fun.

One thing before we get started, though. In the earlier editions, the Disciplines weren't all published in the base book; most of them were scattered throughout various supplements. I've tried to stick with some of the more or less "core" disciplines, and only those of the the modern/non-Dark Ages Kindred. In addition to the various "core" books, here's the sources: Players Guide, 1st Edition, Players Guide, 2nd Edition, Hunter's Hunted, Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, Players Guide to the Sabbat, and Storyteller Handbook. Also, the various changes to Paths and Rituals are a bit outside this particular post.

Alright, let's go!

  • Different levels have different names between editions (Level 1 is "Song of the Beast" in 1st, "Sweet Whispers" in 2nd).
  • In 1st, level 1 has a chart of success. 1 success gives you knowledge of the creatures basic motives, while level 5 allows full trust and communication.
  • In 1st, level 3 allows you to compel a complex favor from an animal, whereas in 2nd it allows you to “steal” the Beast, and the creatures will to do anything.
  • There are no significant changes between 2nd, Revised, and V20.
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions.
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions.
  • In 1st, Celerity costs one blood point per dot to activate, but lasts the entire scene. Celerity also adds to a characters Dexterity rating as well as for determining how fast they can run.
  • In 2nd, Celerity only costs one blood point to activate, regardless of rating, but only lasts for a turn.. It does not add to a characters Dexterity or movement.
  • Revised follows 2nd, except the extra actions go into effect the following turn.
  • In V20, Celerity costs one blood point per dot to activate, and lasts only for a turn. It also adds to Dexterity, but only those dots not being utilized for extra actions.
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions; though in 2nd and later, the fifth level power requires two Willpower points to activate.  
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions, other than a slight change in description for level 4.
  • Other than some slight difficulty changes (e.g. Going from Difficulty 10 to determine a strangers Nature to a Difficulty of 9), there are no significant changes between the various editions. Well, other than this not existing in 1st.
  • In 1st edition, level 1 (Command) required no roll. All later editions changed this to Manipulation + Intimidate.
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions.
  • Levels 1 and 2 remain the same throughout the editions
  • In 2nd, level 3 causes a trance in listeners, while in V20 they can cause any strong emotion, so long as it is appropriate
  • In 2nd level 4 requires a Manipulation + Empathy roll at a difficulty of the targets Willpower, while in V20 it requires a Manipulation + Performance, which is resisted by the targets Willpower against a difficulty of the singers Appearance+Performance.
  • In 2nd level 5 allows one to cause aggravated damage with a Manipulation+Intimidate roll; in V20, level 5 allows the character to have multiple targets for the lower levels of Melpominee.
  • In 1st and 2nd editions, Necromancy is a “standard” discipline. In Revised and V20 it becomes more of a “thaumaturgical” like discipline, with multiple paths and rituals.
  • No change between 1st and 2nd.
  • In V20, Level 1 has been changes from “healing” to “sense the damage” and know what ails the target. Level 3 is now the “healing” level, with the other levels increasing by one. The previous level 5 power of “Unburdening the Bestial Soul” is now a level 6 power.
  • Levels 2 and 4 of this disciple are swapped in 2nd edition and above. In 1st “Vanish” was level 2 and “Unseen Presence” was level 4.
  • The only significant change is Level 4. In 2nd, Level 4 allowed the vampire to create a number of murky images to obscure and confuse a target. In Revised and V20, level 4 allows the vampire to become a tentacled monstrosity of shadow.
  • No change between 1st and Revised. In V20, Potence now provides bonus dice to one’s Strength. One must expend a blood point in order to gain automatic successes.
  • The only significant changes occur between 1st and 2nd. There are no significant changes between 2nd and V20.
  • In 1st Level 1 “Awe” functions similarly to later editions Level 2 “Dread Gaze.”
  • Level 2 “Entrancement” functions the same as later editions Level 3.
  • Level 3 “Compulsion by Attraction” functions similarly to later editions Level 1.

  • There are no significant changes between the various editions.

  • Levels 1, 2, 4, and 5 remain the same in each edition, other than some clarification on blood cost.
  • In 1st and 2nd, level 3 allows the vampire to reduce the physical attributes of the target. In Revised and V20, level 3 functions as a “delayed” attack allowing the vampire to damage his foe up to an hour after making contact.
  • Levels 1 and 2 remain the same in each edition.
  • Level 3 in 2nd allows one to affect an individual. V20 expands this to affect objects as well.
  • Level 4 in 2nd allows the vampire to “blink” and immediately move between two locations. In V20 this allows the vampire to “freeze” an object outside of time.
  • Level 5 in 2nd allows the vampire to “freeze” the object, similar to level 4 in V20. V20’s level 5 allows the vampire to function as if they had Celerity, but they may take any action, including the use of other Disciplines, during this time.
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions.
  • Levels 1, 2, 4, and 5 remain the same in each edition
  • In 1st and 2nd, level 3 allows the vampire to “Mummify” and assume a nigh-invulnerable state. In Revised and V20, level 3 allows the vampire to assume a tougher and more lethal combat form.
  • Levels 1-4 are the same in each edition.
  • In 2nd level 5 allows the vampire to “infect” aggravated wounds, allowing him to “feed” the target blood at range, without the target even being aware.
  • In V20, level 5 allows the vampire to damage the targets attributes.
  • In 1st, there are 4 major Paths—Blood, Fire, Telekinesis, and Weather Control. They vampire learns one level in each path for each dot of Thaumaturgy. Each path has their own separate dice pools. Whichever Path they choose at Level 5 (i.e. their first level 2 in a specific path), becomes the “Primary” path, with others rated as “Secondary,” “Tertiary,” and “Subordinate.” Additional ratings on each Path are at a reduced XP cost, based on if they are Primary, or the like.
  • In 2nd what was the Path of Blood is now the core part of the discipline. The remaining 3 Paths are now separated and must be learned during play.
  • The number of available Paths is greatly expanded in Revised and V20. The vampire may now learn any Path as their “Primary” path, with all others treated as “Secondary.”  The individual dice pools for each Path are now replaced with a Willpower roll.
  • There are no significant changes between the various editions.
  • Level 1. In 1st, this is “Whispers of the Chamber” and allows the vampire to detect others within a limited enclosed space. In V20, this is “Skin of the Chameleon,” allowing the vampire to blend with their surroundings.
  • Level 2. In 1st, this is “Skin of the Chameleon.” In V20, this is “Scry the Hearthstone,” allowing the vampire to detect others within a given pace.
  • Level 3. In 1st, this is “Voiced of the Castle,” extending the range of “Whispers in the Chamber” to a cover a far larger enclosure. In V20, this is “Bond with the Mountain,” allowing the vampire to meld with stone and concrete to conceal itself during the day.
  • Level 4. In 1st is effectively the same as “Bond with the Mountain.” In V20 it is “Armor of Terra” which greatly increases the vampire’s toughness.
  • Level 5. In 1st is effectively the same as “Armor of Terra.” In V20, the vampire can “Flow Within the Mountain” and move through a stone structure while “Bonded” with it. 
So, what, if anything, can be determined from all these changes? The first thing that strikes me is how relatively minor these alterations are. Sure, a few got overhauled over time--I'm looking at you, Necormancy--but most remained essentially the same. What changes there are I'd break up into three main categories: changes based on balance and play testing, changes based on making a Discipline (and their associated Clan) more playable, and changes based on being an annoyingly overpowered game breaker (i.e. Celerity).

Those changes based on balance and play testing would be Animalism, Dementation, Dominate, Obfuscate, Obtenebration, Presence, and Thaumaturgy. Most of these are "tweaks"--like having Dominate 1 actually require a roll, and giving Animalism something a bit more cool at level 3--not to mention giving Gangrel and Nosferatu some kind of "social power" which the rest of the Clans all have. Also, Obfuscate in 1st was just odd, and I can see why they changed it. Level 2 let you vanish, but gave no indication for how long or what it meant that you were "vanished." Swapping the Level 2 and 4 powers makes it more clear what you can and can't do.

As an aside, I've never had any player actually attain Level 3 in Animalism is any game of Vampire I've ever been in. It's a damn shame, Next time I get to play (rather than run) vampire, I think I'm going to want to give it a shot.

Also, Thaumaturgy went through a lot of changes, and it's clear the designers were struggling with ways to make this work. For me, doing this overview has shaken a lot of preconceptions about the game. Last time someone played a Tremere in one of my games, I forced them to follow the 2nd edition rules for Thaumaturgy, but upon closely reading 1st I realize that this isn't the "original" way of doing things, and isn't even the "best" way. In fact, I now think 2nd's is probably the least effective method of handling this discipline.

The second set are those like Melpominee, Necromancy, Obeah, Obtenebration, Quitus, Temporsis, Serpentis, and Visceratika. Pretty much all of these were originally developed for "NPC" Clans--those that the players weren't necessarily supposed to play, but were instead meant as foes or enemies. As such, a lot of the tweaking is to make the Disciplines slightly more fun to play around with, and to let the player do a bit more with them. Like, Obtenebration--the original Level 4 is neat for a foe, as it allows them to mess with the players minds and perceptions, but isn't terribly interesting if you're the one using the power. Getting a "war form" (something Serpentis also gains) is a lot more fun.

Finally, you have Celerity. This Discipline, much like Thaumaturgy, went through the most changes. Unlike Thaumaturgy, it wasn't an attempt to more fully bring it to life, but instead obviously an attempt to balance it all out. V20 seems like the "final take" on this, combining the aspects of 1st and Revised. I know a lot of people, Storytellers as well as players, have issues with Celerity, as it does provide an amazing benefit in combat. Personally, I've never had a major issue with it. Most of the "open" conflicts in my games tend to be against mortals, and so it doesn't bother me if the character can storm a place and shoot everyone up.

This is a wholly original idea I just had.
Let's say the players need to get an item from a ruthless gang headquarters. The Toreador may go with dual guns and take everyone out, and that's fine. I mean, I'd let the Malkavian or a Nosferatu Obfuscate their way in and pick it up without killing anyone. The Gangrel could fly in as a bat and grab it. Or, hell, the damn Ventrue could walk in with Presence and Dominate, convince the gang leader to give him the item, explain where they got it, arrange a meeting with their boss for the Ventrue and his coterie to crash, hidden orders to call a special number weekly and explain all the latest news from the street and what the gang is up to, and after all that the gang leader would be CERTAIN he got the better end of the deal.

So, yeah, go ahead in with guns blazing; it's actually less of a pain in the ass for me.

But, if you do have a lot of vampire on vampire physical conflict, I can see how Celerity could be an issue. Like I said, I think V20 probably has the best take on it of any edition. I do wonder though, how much did 1st inspire their take on it in V20? I mean, the creative team has changed completely (and multiple times) since 1st, so I don't know if they have ever played or, hell, read 1st. Was this a house rule or other idea that developed independently? Did a few of the members have 1st and been using that rule for a while in a home game? Did they go through all the edition before making their final take on it?

Is it worth going through the various forum posts, blogs, and tweets about V20 to figure this out?

Nah, probably not. But, like the rest of these comparisons, is kind of fun to think about.

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