Alongside such venerable companions as grunge, the Nintendo 64 and, uh, WWE wrestling, the pen-and-paper role-playing game did not survive long in the mainstream come the turn of the millenium, but experienced huge popularity throughout the ’90s. These days, however, when most people think of tabletop RPGs they think of 20-sided dice and nerds with a bunch of Mountain Dew playing Dungeons and Dragons.
However, DnD is not the only survivor of the changing times. RPG veterans may stroke their cheeto-stained beards and tell you of a time when Vampire: the Masquerade was on the block – and we’re not talking about Bloodlines, the famous video game. No sir, today’s topic is the old-school arena in which the 10-sided die was king.
No sir, today’s topic is the old-school arena in which the 10-sided die was king.
V:tM was unusual for RPGs of the time in that its ruleset (RPGs had these books you’d buy that told you all the rules the game followed) was markedly less strict than that of most of its companions. If you didn’t like a rule, or a bit of the lore that followed it, the rulebooks proclaimed loud and clear that you should change it.
It was also curious in that its combat and stats systems, while functional and effective, weren’t particularly complex. Players with five points in sword-waving wave swords effectively, and that was kinda that. Expansion books (DLCs of their day) were released with all kinds of details added on to the systems, but at its heart, the RPG was just that: a role-playing game, not a sword-waving one (that’s more DnD‘s domain).
Centring around vampires running around at night, V:tM also had enough lore to make Peter Molyneux curl up in a ball and cry. With further rulebooks released detailing games you could play with werewolves, ghosts, mummies and so on, the World of Darkness (WoD, as it was called) truly never ran out of entertainment.
Said entertainment was dark – V:tM was a horror game as well as a role-playing one, and some of its elements were truly grim. From spreading black bile on your teeth to increase bite damage to wheeling and dealing in sexual child slavery to turn a profit and bring others into your control via vice, developers White Wolf weren’t afraid to pull punches.
The legacy of the title is still very much around – a few years ago, a 20th anniversary edition of the ruleset was released (although 2nd edition before it is still king, in my not-remotely-humble opinion), and there was also a complete rewrite done with entirely different lore.
Until the day I die, I will claim that the old is vastly superior to the new, but the truth is that both are worth at least checking out if you can handle the mantle of being such a huge nerd. Make no mistake, this is jumping off the deep end: attend another LadSoc social after playing a game of V:tM, and your square-jawed, low-IQ companions’ heads will explode in your presence or something. If you can cut it however, check it out on the double. It’s ridiculously fun.