If you are looking to dive deep into a new tabletop role play game, you will probably come across Vampire: The Masquerade as one of your leading choices. If you’re into gothic-punk vamp themes, this may be your game over, say, Dungeons and Dragons.
However, starting a new role play game is complicated, to say the least.
So… how do you start playing Vampire: The Masquerade? We’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you understand the mechanics and rules of gameplay, as well as the characters and lore of the actual story. One must first understand all of these things before beginning play.
After you learn these rules, mechanics, and lore, you may seek out a game master and begin your first round of Vampire: The Masquerade.
At first, the rules sound intimidating. Our guide will break the information down for you in an easy, digestible manner so that you could sit down and play and feel in the know, and not totally lost.
Want to get started right away? Here’s what we recommend you get.
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- What is the General Story of Vampire: The Masquerade?
- Things you Need to Know to Begin Playing
- How are Baby Vampires Made?
- Vampire Types: Generations, Sects, and Clans
- What Now?
What is the General Story of Vampire: The Masquerade?
A tabletop role-playing game (RPG) created in 1991, Vampire: The Masquerade was the first of several games for its setting, World of Darkness. It is set in a more gothic-punk version of the modern world.
Players assume roles as vampires, who are referred to as Kindred and are made a vampire by their Sire (AKA their vampire Daddy).
It is a night-to-night struggle to subdue their monstrous natures, to get along with other vampires, and to follow the rules set by their clans (vampire fam-bam) and local vampiric governing system, a vampire sect called The Camarilla.
You might recall that on the HBO show True Blood there were vampire laws? In the game, there are also laws the players have to follow.
Also, the vampires in the game have to stay hidden. In fact, the whole reason it’s called the masquerade is that the Camarilla has decreed all vampires must remain hidden from human knowledge.
In fact, they’ve even made the following decree:
Thou shall not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing such shall renounce thy claims of Blood.
This decree wasn’t truly enforced until after the 15th century… after vampire hunters killed off a ton of vampires. This period of history is what prompted the formation of the said sect, The Camarilla, which established itself purely to promote the idea of going into hiding (i.e., the masquerade) as a means for vampire survival.
As mentioned, these rules are enforced mostly via self-policing. If not, look out for the Prince of Camarilla.
Princes may use whatever means they like to ensure vampires stay in the closet and may punish any vampires who break these rules.
A Final Death may be orchestrated in which a blood-hunt occurs (where other vampires track down the disobeyer and kill them.) The Camarilla has been known to erase human memories to make them forget the vampires they’ve come across.
It has also infiltrated various parts of the media to keep vampires out of the news.
Why is This Masquerade So Important to Game Play?
Well, if it wasn’t necessary, it probably wouldn’t be in the actual name of the game. Also, there are two sects (say what now!?), and these two sects do not agree on the terms of the masquerade.
The Sabbat sect does not want to abide by the rules as they feel Vampires should be out of the closest and should annihilate and dominate humans.
What’s the Goal Here?
This moody-broody role-play game is about being bossed around by older vampires who are superior to you in most ways (relatable), manipulating your friends’ emotions (nice) and maneuvering politics and social hierarchies and the occasional battle involving burning your friend alive (normal.)
Things you Need to Know to Begin Playing
Vampire: The Masquerade (V: TM) is a storyteller system that requires a Game Master to conduct the story and create the difficulty levels, etc.
All the mechanics of the game are aimed at the goal of simulating the life of a vampire.
Therefor in V: TM, the players (vampires) have a blood pool, signifying the amount of human blood (aka vitae) currently coursing through their vampy veins.
Blood Pool Points
As mentioned above, a player’s blood pool is the number of vitae in their body – these points can be spent to power up abilities and perform super cool magic tricks.
What kind of tricks are we talking about here?
We’re talking turning into animals, becoming a cloud of vapor, unnatural amounts of charisma, and the ability to hypnotize humans into exposing their tender flesh for the taking.
It does take one point each time the gameplay begins because it takes blood pool points just to awaken in the night.
The blood pool number will vary depending on the generation of vampire you are. The older the vamp, the higher the blood pool points, and vice versa.
You can gain more blood pool points for eating victims and taking in their blood. Different victims have differing blood pool value as well (werewolves are particularly juicy in this game).
Since part of V: TM is about retaining one’s humanity and not surrendering to the beast inside oneself, each player is given a humanity score to measure just how in touch with their human nature they are. Humanity scores can increase and decrease.
As the scores decrease, the vampire is more likely to fall prey to their own monstrous nature, driven by rage, hunger, and an overall healthy dose of hate for God and Humanity.
What lowers a humanity score? The same things that tear at our human nature in reality: brutal, immoral actions that make one say, “Dude, what is wrong with you? You’re such a monster.”
When a vampire’s humanity score drops down to zero, the formidable Beast nature takes over. That vampire goes into a state of constant frenzy known as Wassail.
Dice & Game Play
You need a D10 dice (ten-sided die). These are the official V: TM dice.
Generally, the GM will have set what the difficulty level is for the overall gameplay (many GM’s do 6, 7, or 8 to keep it fair and interesting.) Therefore, you’ll need higher than a 6 to be able to complete any respective mission successfully.
The number of dice a player gets to roll is based on that player’s current skill level, which is generally based on two different skill sets that, when combined, represent the player’s abilities.
Let’s say you’re trying to lure a victim out into a private courtyard while a party rages on inside. You will choose one or two attributes, abilities or advantages, and use these skills to try to complete a successful mission.
If you use your charisma (2 points) and athletics (3 points), for example, you will get to roll 5 times.
Your GM will then let you know how many ‘successes’ they require to complete a mission. If your game master states they need two successes, it means they expect you roll at a minimum of two dice that add up to a number higher than 6.
HOWEVER – If you roll a 1 on any of the die, that die undermines a success.
- Let’s say you roll a 10, 7, 1, 2, 3. That’s five different dice with five different numbers.
- You rolled a 1 (boohoo). This means it cancels out one of your successes (bye, bye 7!).
- So, you are left with one success (the die that rolled the 10) because the 2 and the 3 were already failure rolls since they did not surpass the number 6 (which is required to succeed in your mission).
- Since your GM stated they needed two successes, but one of your successes was just undermined by the number 1 you rolled, then, I’m sorry to say you ROYALLY FAILED YOUR MISSION!
Your GM will then go on to tell a saga about how you went to seduce your victim but accidentally showed your teeth because you’re just a lil’ baby vampy who can’t seem to behave.
Some GM’s who think they’re Mother Theresa will allow rolling a number 10 to not only be a successful roll but also to allow a re-roll on an unsuccessful die roll. (Power to you, philanthropic game masters.)
All the players in the fight roll an initiative. Whoever rolls the highest amount of successes (i.e., one player rolls a 6,7,8 – three successes, vs. the player who rolls only one success, a 6).
Generally, in Vampire the Masquerade, battles do not go on for days. The only time battles go into more extended play are when you have two equally matched vampires with a ton of fortitude.
Every player has a health section on their character sheet. The weapon used against you will determine the amount of damage inflicted upon your character. Some examples:
- If someone shoots a vampire in the head, well, it’s not going to kill your vampire, but it might severely bruise their head for a bit, so you’d write a line through the box that reads “bruised” and the box that reads “injured.”
- If, however, you were attacked by a dragon flame thrower, that DOES affect a vampire, to the point where you will need a full day of recovery (knocking you out of the rest of this day’s gameplay.)
- If you are injured, the health ticks will affect the success of your missions for the rest of the game.
- If you try to roll a successful seduction, this time your health will be a strike against you (much like how rolling a 1 negates one of the successes, if there are any, present.)
You can attack more than one person per roll when in battle. However, there is a greater risk in doing so. Some dice will be taken away on the attacker’s roll, not just at the top of the attack, but for each move/action he does after the first.
This minimizes the likelihood of being successful at attacking multiple parties.
For example, if they could normally roll five dice, when they attack two people, they’d maybe only get three dice to roll now – so the risk is that there’s less probability of a successful attack.
But if the attack is successful, then it affects more than one person. If that happens, the risk was worth it.
It is wiser generally to just attack one player at a time.
However, sometimes a playa’s gotta do what a playa’s gotta do!
In addition to procuring abilities, attributes, and advantages, each character has a weakness (for who among us does not?) Weakness range from sunlight, wooden stakes through the heart, to the pull of the beast.
When vampires are affected by weakness, or are weakened in a battle, they go into a deathlike sleep called torpor.
Vampires in this state will have difficulties protecting themselves and are vulnerable to entering a Final Death, should a vampire hunter or beastly vampire come upon them.
You can spend willpower points if you disagree with an action the game master pitches out to allow you to change the course of your story.
For example, the game master says that you encounter a kid in an alley, and you kill the kid and drink his blood. Perhaps this goes against your moral code as a vampire.
You can use your will power points to say, “No, I won’t. I fight the urge and walk away.” And now everyone in this campaign thinks, “Wow, Georgie the baby Vamp is really in touch with his humanity, and I like that in a Vampire.”
The goal is to hopefully have humanity left in you by the end of the game, so that you don’t 100% succumb to the dark beast that lives inside every Vampire, leeching the humanity from them until they are nothing but a monster.
How are Baby Vampires Made?
A baby vampire can be made by draining a human to the point of death and then feeding vampire blood to that same human. The creator of a vampire is a Sire, and a baby vampire is called a Childe (because everything is a little spookier if you add an ‘e’ to the end of it).
The process of creating a vampire is called the embrace. In the Camarilla sect, embraces are tightly controlled – they can’t just happen all willy-nilly. However, in the Sabbat clan, it’s fair game.
Vampire Types: Generations, Sects, and Clans
In order for there to be a plethora of characters to create and choose from, the game makers of V: TM have created a wide variety of generations, sects, and clans to keep things fresh and interesting.
Age is a really big thing in this game. Young vamps want respect and power and are always trying to prove themselves to their elders.
Older vampires like to toy with and boss around younger vampires, cuz I mean, they kind of earned the right. Here are the different generations for players in V:TM:
- Fledgling – New baby vampires. They haven’t formally entered vamp society and are ignorant and weak. They don’t survive on their own and are super codependent on their sire.
- Neonate – Young but able to survive on their own and seen as a member of society.
- Ancilla – They’ve been around a few decades or centuries. They’ve accomplished something cool on behalf of their sect or clan.
- Elder – Refers to a vampire who is anywhere between 200 and 1000 years old. By this point in their long lives, they are usually rich, influential, and powerful.
- Methuselah – Oldies between 1000 and 2000 years old. These blood-sucking folks tend to drop out of society because they’ve seen it all. They typically aren’t great with changes at this point.
- Antediluvian – These are the dudes (or dudettes) who are believed to be third generation of vampires descended from Cain’s original children.In V: TM, it’s believed all vampires came from Cain in the Bible who was punished by God after killing his brother, Abel.) There are supposedly thirteen of these descendants.
We’ve already covered most of this, but as a proper refresher, there are two main ones you need to know about to get started – the rest is honestly a little benign and unnecessary to understand for first-time players.
These guys like rules and traditions. They abide by the masquerade law, whose law is enforced by other vampires and overseen by the Prince (we know this already.)
The camarilla is idealistic and is a vast, albeit, rigid hierarchy that breeds political manipulation and rivalries. The camarilla vampires refer to themselves as Kindred. They refer to humans as ‘Kine’ which is another word for cattle.
The anarchist bod boys! They like to call themselves the ‘Sword of Cain.’
They are not all about the oppressive rule of the Elder vampires and do not like following tradition or rules. They like self-rule, freedom, and believe themselves to be much superior to humans.
And they have NO regard for human life whatsoever. The Sabbat have brutal initiation methods to make vampire prove their loyalty to the sect. They also do weird ceremonies (like a cult) where they do blood-bonding.
There are technically thirteen clans, but some of these did not age well. Therefore, we’re only going to go over the ones that actually matter and make sense for modern gameplay.
- Bruja – a bunch of hip rebels, rogues, and folks who are anti-authority. Passionate and full of rage. Think teen-angst and protestors who do so unpeacefully. The angry ‘woke’ folks.
- Gangrel – shapeshifters who prefer the wild. They focus on their own survival and prefer animals to other beings. Think backpackers who don’t shake their armpits or facial hair.
- Nosferatu – Beastly looking dudes (like Voldemort but less cute). They are generally shunned for looking so nasty and live in the shadows and sewers. They deal in secrets.
- Toreador – Sensitive tortured artist types who are interested in mortal things. They are captivated by beauty to the point of distraction.
- Tremere – blood sorcerers who can cast spells. They’ve got super sense and can control minds. They LOVE following complicated rules.
- Ventrue – aristocrats and king vampires (or wall-street vamps). They are beautiful and fancy and very picky about their prey.
- Giovanni – Italian vampires who just love drinking blood and are also into necromancy.
- Lasombra – They like mind control and lurking in the shadows (like trolls on twitter).
- Tzimisce – These dudes are freaky. They can turn humans inside out, can talk to animals, and are really bony looking, like aliens. They are superior beings, but it makes them weird. Some would say they are the dangerous nerds of the vampire world.
Now that you know the general story behind the game, as well as the rules of play, and the vast array of character types available to you, you will download a character sheet here.
Then, find like-minded role players like yourself, and form a crew to begin play. You’ll need a Game Master to run the show and create your specific gameplay rules.
After that, congregate, begin play and enjoy!