Vampire: The Masquerade, A Storytelling Game of Personal and Political Horror

Last month we shared our Vampire The Masquerade fifth edition (V5) pre-alpha playtest at World of Darkness Berlin, with over 100 playtesters from 26 different countries. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive and did not raise any red flags about content or core systems. Last week we released it to the world, and we are grateful for all your survey responses, emails, social media comments, and reviews. Now we are working on the alpha playtest for GenCon 2017, but your feedback on the pre-alpha makes it clear that we need to provide some context for the playtest and for V5.

White Wolf, the World of Darkness, and Vampire: The Masquerade all share a long and proud tradition of exploring contemporary issues through a dark roleplaying lens. Throughout the development of the fifth edition of Vampire (V5), our goals have explicitly included the proud continuation of this tradition, while also supporting an incredibly entertaining roleplaying game experience. We strive to explore difficult and disturbing subjects maturely, but not gratuitously, building on the brave heritage of previous editions.

We don’t plan to abandon this practice, which has been a core part of Vampire for a quarter-century: this is a roleplaying game about monsters.

Make no mistake, the player characters in the V5 pre-alpha playtest are monsters and villains. Through them, we intend for our players to view the Camarilla sect from the Anarch perspective, as a perverse and privileged class of old-school vampires and who adhere to an antiquated code of morality and obsessed by the realpolitik of staying in power at any price. The player characters are written as dictators and collaborators who deserve to fall hard, perhaps even deserve to die, as they are torn from power.

The nature of the Curse makes each sin vampires might inflict upon the world erode their souls. Yet vampires must live off the blood of humans. The longer they exist, the longer they visit their own evil upon the world, they become ever-more distant and alien to the world around them. Their actions have terrible consequences for themselves and others; some of them can be considered truly evil. This internal conflict has been been at the core of VTM stories since the game’s creation. That is the very essence of the Curse of Caine, and it makes the best vampire a struggling anti-hero and the worst a hypocritical monster like Amelina.

Our oversight, for which we apologize, was not providing this context so that our players could see why and how we made these decisions. We needed to clearly state again that the material was intended for mature audiences, and to label it that way. We should have stated again that our vision for V5 brings Vampire back to its roots as a morality tale about evil, set in the darkest places of our own world. Contemporary, real-world horrors and atrocities are an important part of the setting and by extension – its characters.

We’ll communicate this and other design-choices better as we go forward. We can and will make the game’s contents transparent for those who need them to be by giving you fair warning. We want our game’s dark tone to be truly earned, giving it meaning and the opportunity for our players to use it to tell stories of genuinely personal and political horror.

As we release future previews, you’ll see that V5 will include many relevant, timely story elements like the global migrant and refugee crises, drug abuse, human trafficking, urban decay, homelessness, government corruption, ecological crises and political instability. V5 characters will have the opportunity to interact with these topics through scenarios designed to prompt insight and critical thinking, while also being exciting, dramatic, and thrilling, as each Storyteller deems appropriate. Our goal is to allow our players to use these elements to explore tough topics through the lens of roleplaying, to the extent they are interested in exploring such ideas.  

Our plan for V5 also includes providing tools and techniques for adjusting the game to personal tastes. There will be techniques to deal with difficult subject matter and strong emotions. We’ll give you the means to focus your V5 chronicles on any aspect of Vampire: The Masquerade that you’ve ever enjoyed, from terrifyingly intimate scenes of very personal horror to the repulsive global power plays of the Camarilla Kindred. You’ll get expert guidance helping you to shine the spotlight on ripped-from-the-headlines realism or insidious parlor politics as you choose.

If you prefer the bloody violence of a street-level drama set against the backdrop of vampire gang warfare and an Anarch Baron’s rise and fall, you can tell that story in V5. You can also join Beckett in his global quest to unravel hidden and forbidden Kindred secrets, or come face to face with the consequences of a modern intelligence community as instruments of government overreach while unraveling the horrifying intrigues of a Camarilla Prince. The V5 stories will scale downward, upward, and sideways as you decide.

Our next live playtest will take place at GenCon 2017 in Indianapolis, and we hope you will join us there, not only to celebrate this convention’s 50th anniversary, but also to participate in the shared creation of a game we all love, and talk about it with us in person. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Blood and Souls,

/ The V5 team

V5 Pre-Alpha QA
We answer some of the most common questions about the V5 Pre-Alpha. Feel free to send us more questions.

Q: Why is Amelina a pedophile?
A: She’s not. She has an obsession with young (recently embraced) Kindred and a feeding restriction that forces her to feed from children and young teens.

Q: Why did you use the term “triggered” to describe someone easily offended on ideological grounds?
A: Because that is the common usage of the term in everyday language, no disrespect intended.

Q: Why are so many characters children (“Club Kids”)?
A: The term Club Kid (at least in Sweden) means a youngish (roughly 18-25) person who spends all their free time at clubs, often under the influence of drugs.