Thursday, August 13, 2015

Let's Compare Editions! Part 1, Introduction and Basic Rules

Let’s Compare the different editions of Vampire: The Masquerade
Introduction and Basic Rules

We begin, naturally, with the beginning. Each edition has had some form of introductory fiction, in which the basic concepts of the game are spelled out. In general, this is in the form of an Elder Vampire speaking to a mortal.


1st Ed Into Image
1st Edition Here we have one “V.T.” writing to a “W.H.” The author seeks to make amends for his previous actions by filling her in on the details of his condition, as well as to let her know that she, or her family, may call on him for any service. Look, it’s Dracula, ok? Yeah, I’m not any more happy to see him than you are, but all in all it works out pretty well. There’s not a lot of asides, and the information is presented cleanly and with minimal fuss.

2nd Edition Pretty much a reprinting of the text in 1st, but with a formatting change. This is true of the vast majority of 2nd; it’s almost always word for word 1st just organized in a different manner.  I will say that I find the organization of this text to be better in 2nd than in 1st. 1st begins with the history of the Kindred, whereas 2nd, wisely, begins with their nature. Better to explain what the hell a vampire is before going into the nuances of their history. 

2nd Ed Intro Image
There is one minor issue, though. For some reason, they print this part over a grey page. It’s not bad, the font is still clean, but 1st ed is far more legible. I guess it looks cooler. This will be an issue going forward. There are numerous books that use cool fonts, dark backgrounds, and even background images to look neat, but end up rendering the text damn nearly unreadable. I thought “Style over Substance” was Cyberpunk’s thing?

Revised Edition Here we have an unnamed narrator. What’s odd though, is that he’s not writing like good old Vlad was in 1st/2nd, but instead speaking to a mute (?) mortal. I have no idea who is supposed to be transcribing this. But, he’s clearly planning to embrace the mortal. Again, the information is fine, but a certain amount of sarcasm and superiority is present in the Intro, compared to Vlad’s. Vlad’s was sentimental, sure. He was, after all, revealing a great secret to a woman he loved at risk of his own life as a form of penance. Unnamed sire guy is just better than the person he’s talking to (that’d be you, the reader), and wants you to know that he’s having none of your crap.

V20 Intro Image
20th Anniversary Edition  Unsurprising for an edition geared at an established fan base, V20 does not include a lengthy, in-character introduction. It DOES, however, reprint the first page from 1st, which is nice. I guess this is either a reference to 1st or a way of saying that the entire book is, in some ways, a version of the letter. What’s interesting between the editions is artwork changed. This could be unrelated, but I always took this to be image of V.T. In 1st, it’s an ugly ass Nosferatu. 2nd has a...homeless bum? I guess. And 20th has a dark and sexy bad ass.

I’ll admit, I prefer the art for 2nd, but that could just be me.

Basic Rules

At their most basic, the core rules haven’t really changed much over the editions. Sure, there are various changes in the more detailed elements, but we’ll get to those when we get to Combat and other Dramatic Systems. Fundamentally, each edition uses a Die Pool system. The Die Pool is constructed by adding an Attribute + Ability to give you the Pool, then rolling that number of ten-sided dice to determine success or failure. In cases where the Trait can go up to 10, it is generally rolled by itself. You generally want to roll a “6” or better.

Despite this similarly, there are two major changes in how each edition handles the Basic Rules. The “Rule of One” and Multiple Actions.

The Rules of One In each edition, rolling a “1” is a bad thing. In 1st, each 1 rolled takes away a success from the results. If even a single 1 remains, the character in question has botched. I.E. something disastrous takes place. 2nd, keeping with its “let’s reprint 1st” aesthetic, has the same rules. Revised changes this, however. In Revised you only botch is you roll at least a 1 and no successes.  Even a single success can turn a botch into a simple failure. V20 follows Revised.

Which is better? Well, people smarter than me have pointed out that 1st/2nd approach ends up with you having a greater chance of botching the larger your die pool becomes, particularly at high difficulties. In fact, this was one of the first House Rules we implemented in my gaming group, years before Revised came out. But, you know something? Sometimes the game flows better the more complicated things get by the characters screwing up. Part of me wants to try out the old Rule of One and see what it’s really like.

Multiple Actions In theory, this should show up in a different post, but since these rules crop in up in different sections of different editions, we’ll deal with it here. In any case, there are times you want to do more than one thing in a turn--how do you go about doing that?

1st Declare your actions. Take the lowest die pool of the actions you declared. Divide that pool up between the various actions. Example: Let’s say you want to climb a tree and shoot a gun. You have a  6 dice for climbing and 4 for shooting, so you would have four dice to do both actions. But, you can arrange them as desired, 2 & 2, or 3 & 1.

2nd Follows the same basic rules as 1st, but adds in some clarifications. Movement takes away one die from the pool in question for every 3 yards one moves. In addition, turns happen in order of initiative, with extra actions happening at the END of the turn. Whereas in 1st one could climb a tree and shoot a gun, in 2nd one must now climb, wait for others to take their actions, and THEN shoot.

Revised Declare total number of actions you wish to take. Then, subtract that number of dice from the Die Pool of your first action. Each additional action subtracts an extra die, cumulative. Example: Let’s say you want to punch a guy, and dodge twice. You have a Dex 3, Brawl 4, and Dodge 3.  Your attack would be at (3+4-3=)4 dice, and your dodges would be at (3+3-3-1=) 2 dice and (3+3-3-2) 1 die, respectively.

V20 returns to the 1st Ed system.

Honestly, I’m entirely sure which version is “better.” The older system is certainly easier to understand, and that makes it better in my mind. But, let’s see.

You want to climb a wall and shoot a gun. You have a Dex 3, Athletics 3, and a Firearms 1 (we’ll assume Firearms is Dex based, even though it’s not in 1st).

1st/2nd/V20 You have 4 dice between them, so we’ll say 2 and 2.
Revised You want to do two actions. You subtract 2 from your climb pool, leaving you with (3+3-2=)4 dice to climb with. You’re shooting pool is (3+1-2-1=) 1.

You want to punch someone and dodge twice. You have Dex 3, Brawl 4, and Dodge 3.
1st/2nd/V20 You have 6 dice to split among your actions, generally 2, 2, and 2.
Revised We already did this math, and were left with 4, 2, & 1. 

It certainly looks like the Revised method is better for the players. They’ll be rolling more often, after all, and this gives them even more dice. Maybe this is why they went back to 1st? Or, maybe just ease of play. When it comes to my games, I generally prefer “easy” over “mathematically sound” so I like the “old school” method, but each has its virtues.

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