Vampire: The Masquerade

Created by Mark Rein·Hagen, Vampire: The Masquerade was the first of White Wolf Game Studio's World of Darkness live-action and role-playing games, based on the Storyteller System and centered around vampires in a modern Gothic-Punk world. The Revised Edition, sometimes alternately referred to as the Third Edition by fans, was released in 1998 and explains, "the setting of Vampire is a composite of its populace and their despair." The title of the series comes from "The Masquerade", referring to the Camarilla's attempts to hide vampirism from humans and their governments and media. It also serves as a double entendre, referring to vampires' efforts to convince themselves that they are not the monsters they have become.

In 1992, Vampire: The Masquerade won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1991. The game line was discontinued in 2004, and followed by revised rules and a new setting in Vampire: The Requiem.


The game uses the cursed and immortal Vampiric condition as a backdrop to explore themes of morality, depravity, the human condition (or appreciation of the human condition in its absence), salvation, and personal horror. The gloomy version of the real world that the Vampires inhabit, called "The World of Darkness", forms an already bleak canvas against which the stories and struggles of characters are painted. The themes that the game seeks to address include retaining the character's sense of self, humanity, and sanity, as well as simply keeping from being crushed by the grim opposition of mortal and supernatural antagonists and, more poignantly, surviving the politics, treachery and often violent ambitions of their own kind.

Game system

Vampire is based on the Storyteller System. In addition to the general Storyteller rules, it uses a number of specific mechanics aimed towards simulating the vampiric existence. A vampire has a blood pool signifying the amount of human blood or vitae currently in their body; this blood can be spent to power abilities and perform supernatural tricks. These tricks simulate many of those portrayed on film, such as turning into animals or mist, sleeping in the ground or having unnatural charisma and powers of suggestion.

Close to the central theme of the game is the Humanity mechanic. Each vampire has a Humanity score, measuring how closely in touch with his human nature the vampire is; as it decreases, the vampire becomes more susceptible to his Beast, the feral side of the vampiric soul that is driven entirely by rage and hunger. Brutal, immoral actions risk lowering a vampire's Humanity score. If the individual's Humanity drops to zero, the Beast takes over and the vampire is in a state of constant frenzy known as Wassail.

Vampires in the World of Darkness

"Kindred" is the term many vampires in this game use to refer to themselves. Some vampires, namely those of the Sabbat, refer to themselves as "Cainites", as (according to the traditional Abrahamic creation myth) the curse that transforms them into vampires originated with Caine (the spelling is different from the Biblical Cain, though it is intended to be the same character). The term "kine" (an archaic term for cattle) is the opposite of this, and refers to humans.

In general, vampiric societies consist of two levels: sects and clans. Characters within the Vampire setting are members of one of the clans or minor Bloodlines offered, and usually belong to factions associated with these or that reflect a general ideological stance the characters happen to share. For example, a Brujah may belong to the Camarilla, the Sabbat, or the Anarchs, but very few Tremere would be found among the Sabbat and even more rarely among the Anarchs.

Some clans and most of the minor bloodlines declare themselves independent from any sects. A vampire who rejects all associations with any sect and clan is known as Autarkis. In addition, the Laibon, known as Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom by Western Kindred, are not so much a sect as a cultural group bound together loosely by a powerful spiritual bond to the land and the people of Africa. The Kindred of the East, while sharing some superficial similarity to the western Kindred, are actually an entirely different variety of supernatural being.

Clans and bloodlines

Each Vampire belongs to a distinct clan or bloodline. These groupings share distinct characteristics, powers and curses. The Nosferatu, for example, all share the disciplines of Animalism, Obfuscate and Potence and the curse of disfiguring appearance. A bloodline is a distinct split from the main clans, as the curse of Caine is changed over time, representing new expressions of vampirism. Some Bloodlines, such as the Gargoyles, are artificially created through applications of Thaumaturgy. The Caitiff are an exception to the rule, as they are considered clanless sharing no disciplines and curse, they are viewed as a disquieting sign of the coming armageddon.

Vampire the Masquerade is, like any Old World of Darkness Game, out of print. However, should you be interested in learning more about the original game, there are plenty of sources available online. Basic documentation is provided here:Vampire: The Masquerade.

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