Saturday, January 16, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 10: Vampire The Masquerade

 New Year, New Character

Day 10

Vampire: The Masquerade (V5)

After my brief detour towards "actually making a character for a game I'm going to play" with Starfinder, I'm back to randomly determining the next game for this series. I ended up landing on Vampire, which is easily my favorite game of all time. Even a casual perusal of this blog will show the majority of posts are somewhat related to this game. On my initial post, I listed the 1st Edition as the game for this challenge, as it has become my favorite version of the game. But, I rather like using this series to play around with games I'm not as familiar with, so instead I'm going to go with the latest version--5th Edition, or as it's also known as, V5. 

For those who aren't familiar with it, Vampire is a "Storytelling Game of Personal Horror." In it, players take on the role of a blood thirsty vampire living in the shadows of the modern world. Stories in the game can vary widely from brutal street battles to high-society politicking to "urban fantasy." The best ones combine all of this with an intense exploration of morality and help the player question not only the characters decisions and beliefs, but their own as well. The first edition was released back in 1991, and numerous editions and spin offs (Dark Ages, Victorian Era, "Kindred of the East", etc.) soon followed. Each tweaked and altered various rules and setting information, but the core always remained the same. After being officially cancelled in 2004, the release of the 20th Anniversary Edition in 2011 showed that there was still a passionate fan base, and the 5th Edition came out in 2018. The 5th Ed has probably the most significant changes to the basic rules in an attempt to update and revise things for our modern world. 

Despite running and playing Vampire more than any other game (save for D&D), I haven't yet had a chance to play or run V5. I could get some of my friends to try out the "playtest" material, but no proper "Chronicle" (Vampire term for "campaign") yet. So, this will be my first time doing more than "idly reading the rules." 

Vampire divides Character Creation into a series a steps, with the player assigning Points at each step. Each point translates to a "Dot" in the various traits. In game, the Dots translate to a single ten sided die. Most rolls will be based on an Attribute + Skill total. So, to climb something, one would need to roll Strength (2 dots) + Athletics (2 dots) for 4 dice. A value of 1 is the minimum for an Attribute, and is "barely competent" for a Skill. 5 represents "world class." As with with other Point based Character Creation's, the Concept is a key decision that will inform all subsequent steps. So, we start with that.

Step 1: Concept
Given that I am staring thing cold, I have no particular concept in mind. I'm going to use the Universal NPC Emulator to come with the basic idea for the character, and the Everyone, Everywhere List for their name. Both of these provide various charts that you roll on with percentile dice, and will give me a character Modifier, Noun, Motivation Verb, and Motivation Noun for UNE, and a "Modern" first and last name for Everyone.

For the concept, I get (40) Hopeless (52) Homemaker who wants to (58) Produce (50) Sensuality. Well, if that's not a Vampire concept, I don't know what is! I might be letting my bias show, but I decide this character will be a woman. For her name, I get (42) Madison (66) Swanson. I decide that she was from a small town and met her future husband in college. She ended up dropping out and supporting him while he finished law school. They got married and started a family, and she thought she was content. Her children are now in their teens, her husband always works, and she recently started to realize how deeply unhappy she is with her life. When she discovered that her husband had been cheating on her (repeatedly, and often), she was horrified. She didn't feel that she could leave him, both for her children's sake and for the life they had built. But, she did begin cheating herself, and so discovered a new passion for her life. And this led her to the creature that would embrace her.

Step 2: Clan and Sire

Now I need to figure out who changed her, and what "Clan" she will be. A Clan in Vampire is the general "type" of creature she is, and determines, among other things, what supernatural powers she will posses. I don't have anything in particular in mind, so I roll up her sire using the same tools. I get "Indispensable Steward who wants to Compose Composure." Huh, that's not quite where my thoughts were going, but...I'm kind of fascinated by this mixture. She's focused on Sensuality, he's focused on Composure.  I decide to go with Clan Ventrue. They're the "Clan of Kings" and the Machiavellian puppet masters who keep their fellow vampires safe from exposure to the mortal world. Normally, the embrace into this Clan is a highly structured and ritualized, but I image Madison was embraced after a whirlwind romance with her Sire, who is named Jordan Charpentier. He's a "fixer" for the Prince (the ruler of the city), and only his close relationship with the leadership allowed his "mistake" to be allowed to live.  As a Ventrue, Madison has a Bane that she can only drink certain kinds of blood. Based on her background, I decide she can only feed from Married Men

Step 3: Attributes
Now we start actually assigning dots. Vampire has nine Attributes, divided into three categories. They are Physical (Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina), Social (Charisma, Manipulation, and Composure), and Mental (Intelligence, Wits, and Resolve). She has one Attribute at 4; three Attributes at 3; four
Attributes at 2; one Attribute at 1. The idea of having to have a "1" is pretty annoying, and I focus on that first. I figure I'll put that in Strength, as I want her to be very high in Social and solid in Mental. I place the 4 in Charisma, and then divide the others as best seems appropriate.  Her Health begins at Stamina+ 3 and her Willpower is equal to her Composure + Resolve.

Step 4: Skills

V5 offers a few different "distributions" for your skills. Given her background, I decide to go wit "jack of all trades"--she grew up in a town where people still worked for living, was in college for a bit, worked a "real job" for a few years to get her husband through college, then took care of the home and her kids and volunteered. So, she knows about a lot of things, but isn't really an expert in anything. This gives me one Skill at 3, eight Skills at 2, and ten Skills at 1. I decide to with Subterfuge at 3 (years of being lied to, and lying to herself, has made her very good. And a decade of PTA gossip hasn't hurt either). The rest I mix around based on her concept. 

She also gains a free "Specialty" in Academics, Craft, Performance and Science skills, and one free general one.  These will give her a bonus die in specific cases.  She has no skill in Science, so that one is lost. I put her free specialty in "Subterfuge" as Affairs

Step 5: Disciplines

Madison can pick two out of three of her Clan Disciplines to start with--one rated at 2, and the other at 1. As a Ventrue, she can pick Dominate, Presence, or Fortitude. I put the 2 in Presence and 1 in Dominate. Fortitude is tempting, and she could certainly use something to toughen her up, but for now those two are just too useful. I pick "Cloud Memory" for Dominate 1, which allows Madison to make an individual to forget a brief encounter. For Presence, I pick Awe (attract and hold attention) and Lingering Kiss (being fed on by her is addictive). 

Step 6: Predator

Each character has a "Predator Type," the distinctive was in which they hunt and feed from their moral prey. Each provides a number of bonuses and modifiers to the character. For Madison, I go with Siren--she feeds almost exclusively while feigning sex, and relies on her seduction skills to attract her victims. This gives her the Specialty of Seduction to either Persuade or Subterfuge (I pick Persuade), one dot of Fortitude or Presence (I pick Presence), the Looks Merit at 2 (Beautiful), and a 1 Point Flaw with Enemy--a jealous partner or spurned lover. I go ahead and make this her husband. They're not divorced, yet, but separated. Her change has made her less conspicuous in her behavior than she would like.  For her third level in Presence, I pick Entrancement, which allows her to completely captivate one person, and they treat her as if meeting an idol or falling in love. 

Step 7: Advantages

In addition to the ones I already gained from her Predator type, Madison also gets 7 Advantages and 2 Flaws. I decide to go with the Flaws first, and get "Folkloric Block: Threshold"--Madison must be invited into a private home by the owner. I also take the Influence Flaw of "Disliked"--her husband is well connected in the city, and their marital troubles cause more problems for her than for him. For the Advantages, I spend 2 points on her Haven (a decent apartment) and a Resources 2 (support from her Husband, which he is aggressively contesting.  I also give her an Ally of 1 (her divorce lawyer-turned-lover who is fighting for the best deal) and a Mawla of 2. This is a "mentor" figure, and represents her relationship with her sire.  Not only does he still care about her, but if he can help her become an asset to the Clan, the "shame" of the embrace will hopefully wash off of him.

Step 8: Touchstones and Convictions

Now I need to pick Madison's Touchstones and Convictions. Convictions are rock solid philosophical beliefs that define who she is, and what she wants.  She needs to pick 1 to 3 of these. I decide to give her 2 "None May Control Me" (from the book) and "Family Comes First" (I made that up). These are, naturally, in conflict, but I like the idea of her struggling against her personal freedom and her responsibilities. She still loves her children and would do anything for them, and would even be quite happy becoming a "Cleaver" with her husband if they could somehow work things out, but she won't sacrifice who she is. Next is her Touchstones, living human beings she has a direct tie to, and each is linked with her Conviction. I pick her husband (who I decide is named Neil) for None May Control Me and her children for Family Comes First. 

I kind of like how Madison is shaping up. She's a woman in transition, torn between her past--who she was raised to be and who she thought she should be--and her future. Overtime, she might transfer her loyalty to her Clan as a loyal Ventrue, a new family she "takes over," or her own blood descendants. It would be interesting to see how her story plays out. 

I also need to note the "Chronicle Tenets" for this game. Normally, this is decided by the troupe as a group, so I just set it to Humanist. I also set her starting Willpower to 7. 

Step 9: Sea of Time

Finally, I need to decide her Generation, Blood Potency, and Age. Normally, this is decided by the troupe. I go with the most basic option--a Childer embraced within the past 15 years, with a Generation of 13 and a Blood Potency of 1.  I should also pick an Ambition (long term goal) and a Desire (short term goal). These are highly Chronicle dependent, and without context I can't really pick a reasonable one. For now,  I leave these blank

Final Thoughts
It's hard for me to approach V5 without comparing it to the earlier editions. When I first read it, I was curious about it, but fairly lukewarm. Sure, I liked some of the changes they made (such as the Disciplines and the "Rouse" mechanic), but others left me cold (set difficulties, among others). Creating Madison gave me a fresh perspective on the game, and I like it better than I used to. I do feel that Character Creation has gotten a tad more complicated than it needed to be, but also willing to admit that it might just be because the old way is so ingrained in me. Still, I did enjoy making Madison and am kind of upset I don't have a game coming up for her. Here's her final sheet.

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