Yesterday I was supposed to be studying for a Psychology test but I could not concentrate. In letting my mind empty for a few moments to see if I could get in the study zone, it instead wandered over to my past, to the late 90s, to Vampire: The Masquerade. This isn’t out of nowhere; recently I’ve been talking to Rich Rogers of the Canon Puncture Show (the GM in my recent Lady Blackbird game) about Vampire: The Masquerade. He was also a huge fan of the game and ran a long chronicle around the same time I did. I told him it would be fun to revisit that game with the tools and techniques we have learned since for more story-driven style of play and he agreed. We’re kicking it around and maybe we’ll do something with that in the future (maybe Megacon, if I manage to go?).
Vampire. That game still has a hold on me even though I haven’t played in about a decade. It was my first foray into personal stakes in a roleplaying game, even if I was crude about achieving that, if I ever did. I always understood that Vampires were far more than blood-fueled superheroes, but try as I might in my games I could not shake this off my mind, I could not plan and play the game without seeing little red hearts over the characters a la the Zelda video games that emptied as they used their powers and refilled as they fed (and I will give almost all the credit to my players for being stellar and rarely, if at all, behaving in this manner). I always also wondered, why are all these powerful, immortal beings hanging out with each other like high school girls? Which is funny because we get this image of the vampire as being this lone-wolf creature and here we have a game that asks you to thrust 2, 3, 4, however many player character vamps into a (more or less cohesive) group, or coterie.
Of course, the answer, at least for the cliquish aspect, has to do with Humanity, that which the Vampire is losing as it becomes the immortal being that subsists on the life of others.
See, I now see this very clearly; it is stated in the book, I’m sure of it though I can’t recall pages right now; to many this was probably self-evident right from the start. But for me, this was a revelation, one that took a few years to dawn. Or rather to be fully comprehended. It was when I grasped the implications of that gradual and unstoppable loss of Humanity that I also fully understood the game’s tagline: A Storytelling Game of Personal Horror.
Which is really interesting when I put that next to a comment by Mick Bradley (also of CP) on the same thread discussing re-playing Vampire:
In general, I have no thematic interest in vampire stories. The archetypal metaphors that those stories tend to represent have been explored so much that I just don’t socket into them. Sexy-cool brooding loners who are also the ultimate Machiavellian power-trippers … yeah. Doesn’t grab me at all.
It is fascinating to me because this is not at all in tune with that realization I pointed out above about the essential conflict at the core of a game of Vampire. And yet, that’s precisely what I, and many others, did at the time: play our vamps as sexy beasts full of libidic ennui that served as avatars making up for our own social and sexual shortcomings. So why do that?
I imagine because that is part of the myth of the vampire, that it is a creature that looks human but is über-human, and as a teenager/twentynager dealing with a lot of social, mental and physical turmoil, getting to play this part is just heavensent. The Machiavellian power-trippers part also figures as a part of this.
And this is precisely why I am very much intrigued by the idea of going back to play Vampire: The Masquerade now, as a 35-year old. I want to let go of the idea of the vampire as my avatar, and explore the world through those clothes instead. I am older, more experienced, more damaged than when I was in my early to mid twenties, and that’s a whole lot of data I can use to inform and extrapolate my character in-game. I’m also not as afraid as I was back then to let myself go a little and truly dig into the “personal horror” part of the game; heavens know I have experienced horror in my life that I can tap into through that characterization/exploration.
In a few words, I am intrigued to play Vampire: The Masquerade again because in the process of getting older I have come to understand personally the concept, with all the joys and pains involved, of my own Humanity, and a game where the primary conflictual conceit is that you are, and, however slowly, will lose your Humanity resonates with me now in ways that it never did 10-15 years ago.
But I don’t want to run this game, I want to play it. And it can’t be Vampire: The Requiem, it has to be Vampire: The Masquerade. But that’ll be another post.