[Ambientación] 30 años de Vampiro

Desde la primera edición a la quinta.
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[Ambientación] 30 años de Vampiro

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Mensaje por Voivoda » 12 Mar 2021, 21:40

En julio se cumplen 30 años de la publicación de la primera edición de Vampiro La Mascarada.

Hoy he encontrado la que probablemente sea la primera reseña del juego, que firmó Allen Varney y se publicó en el número 175 de la revista "Dragon" en 1991.

Os dejo la reseña entera en inglés.

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VAMPIRE: The Masquerade
264-page softcover book; White Wolf, $20

Design: Mark Rein-Hagen

Written by: Mark Rein-Hagen, Graeme Davis, Tom Dowd, Lisa Stevens, Stewart Wieck

Development: Mark Rein-Hagen, Andrew Greenberg, Stewart Wieck

Cover photo: Mark Pace

Interior art: Timothy Bradstreet, Charles Dougherty, Chris McDonough, Ron Spenser, Richard Thomas, Josh Timbrook

In striking contrast to DARK CONSPIRACY and many other horror RPGs, this modern-day game frightens you in a highly personal way: It casts you as one of the things that jumps out of the darkness. The high concept here is, "You've been turned into a vampire. While you explore the intricacies of vampiric society, you struggle to hold onto your humanity."

Mark Rein-Hagen helped design the landmark ARS MAGICA RPG (or, rather, "storytelling game") from Lion Rampant. Though I'm not intimately familiar with that game, I've seen enough to convince me that my fellow reviewer Ken Rolston is right: It's one of the most innovative RPGs of the last five years. Now, with Lion Rampant subsumed under White Wolf of Stone Mountain, Ga. (publisher of the eponymous gaming magazine), Rein-Hagen has produced this effective game of deep-down psychological roleplaying, moody storytelling, and blood thirst. It is the first of five compatible story games, all based on a so-called "Gothic-punk" version of our world. The other four, to be released annually, cover modern-day werewolves, magicians, Faerie, and ghosts.

"Gothic-punk" clearly has much to do with recent vampire novels by Anne Rice, Nancy Collins, and others, as well as films like "Near Dark" and "The Lost Boys." In this game, vampires are not dark aristocrats out of Stoker or Lugosi. Instead, they dress like yuppies or street people, and they strike a posture of sombre coolness that may hide inner grief or fear. But they have the traditional weaknesses to sunlight and fire, and like vampires of old, they often revel in periodic episodes of murder or brutality.

VAMPIRE is the polar opposite of GDW's DARK CONSPIRACY, focusing monomaniacally on character personality, tone, storytelling, and the ongoing "chronicle," or campaign. Just as GDW's game steadfastly ignores these ideas, so the White Wolf release pays little heed to rules or equipment: "You may buy weapons, clothing, homes, condos, cars, anything -- use an appropriate catalogue for prices" (p. 51). The core rules, a straightforward emulation of the basic SHADOWRUN system, fill five and a half pages. Firearm stats? Hey, there are ten guns listed right there on the bottom of page 150, plus almost four entire pages of combat rules. Oooh.

In fact, this book offers many scattered rules, mostly relating to the vampiric condition and to a fancy and fascinating societal background. But the text constantly stresses "drama" over systems: "The rules are for keeping characters in line. If your imagination is superior to the rules, then go beyond the rules" (p. 230, just one of many similar passages). This attitude has appeared to varying degrees in most RPGs of the past few years, but I see no trace of it in DARK CONSPIRACY or any GDW release. That's the main sign of these two games' differing attitudes and audiences.

Presentation: Though the VAMPIRE rulebook looks clean, it's no match for GDW's slick and lavish production values; this is straight desktop publishing. The text is littered with comma splices and style inconsistencies, a garage-band failing (also seen in White Wolf magazine) that detracts from the game's forward-thinking ideas. Absurd numbers of epigraphs, quoting everything from the Bible to pop song lyrics, furnish more litter and amplify the game's highflown demeanor.

In VAMPIRE, even the artwork tells a story -- a moody 89-picture tale, serialized in amateur drawings throughout the book, of an ancient vampire and her reincarnated lover. The narrative nicely evokes the game's ambience. Timothy Bradstreet provides ten superb full-page portraits, using tone and wash techniques to convey a much more sinister atmosphere than does his hard-edged work in DARK CONSPIRACY. Again, this symbolizes the contrast between these two games.

Characters and setting: These are the great strengths of this remarkable game -- its elaborate background, and, just as important, its ways to encourage creation of vivid characters for that background.

Stats and skills do not distinguish VAMPIRE characters well, for these are truncated or trivialized. Somewhat more distinctive are the various Disciplines, or innate powers, like Auspex, Celerity, and Dominate. (Another, Thaumaturgy, allows literal spell-casting, but these are the vaguest rules in the game.) Then there are Background perks like Fame, Herd ("the number of Vessels [victims] you have readily available"), and Mentor, among others.

But the traits that really make vampire PCs come to life (or undeath) are unrelated to numbers. Your Nature, Demeanor, and Archetype (e.g., Gallant, Hedonist, Martyr, and many more); your Haven, where you retreat from the sun's deadly light; and, above all, your Clan bloodline make your character unique. The seven Clans have different goals, abilities, personalities, and politics: Ventrue aristocrats mingle in mortal society and feed on only particular kinds of victims, whereas Nosferatu are deformed outcasts of the sewers. The Tremere thaumaturgists, hedonistic Toreador artistes, mad Malkavians, shapechanging Gangrels, and rebellious Brujah punks -- all give your PCs built-in connections, rivalries, and objectives. The Clans have little in common except "the Masquerade," the overriding need to conceal the existence of vampires from mortals.

Sound complex? That's just the start. Vampires have a long, involved history going back to Caine, sentenced to vampirism for the sin of murdering Abel. Caine, who apparently is still around, spawned an immortal line of "the Kindred" stretching over thirteen generations, each generation weaker than its predecessor. Younger, weaker vampires gain power by killing and feeding on those of earlier generations. Conversely, as a vampire ages, mortal blood no longer sustains it, and it must feed on Kindred to survive (often creating vampiric progeny for just this purpose).

You can see already that vampires are a fractious lot. They have developed the Camarilla alliance of Clans to police themselves. The Prince of each major city regulates the creation of new progeny; Justicars adjudicate disputes, sometimes declaring trial by combat; shadowy figures from older generations, the "Antediluvians," set the Clans against one another in a mysterious Jyhad. Then there's the Sabbat, a ruthless league that controls the east coast of America; and the Inconnu, ancient calm vampires who have retired to nature and achieved Golconda, salvation from the urge to drink blood.

And these are just the vampires! There are also the Lupines, lycanthropes who control the countryside and feud bitterly with the urban Kindred; mortal vampire hunters, like the Arcanum and the modern-day Inquisition; and the National Security Agency. This is a rich background, filled with story possibilities. Better yet, the writers scrupulously tell you how to use it.

Campaigning: Not enough campaign advice in GDW's DARK CONSPIRACY? In White Wolf's game, you practically drown in it. There are whole chapters on how to plot stories, maintain suspense, handle players, and so on. The setting does not lend itself to different genres (the flavor is pretty much built-in). Nonetheless, there is great value in the text's long, fascinating list of different campaign premises within the given setting. Want your vampire PCs to be thaumaturgists, society wheels, Muslim extremists, nomads, plain gang members, or even vampire hunters? They're all here (albeit glancingly mentioned in some cases).

But this is not the core of the campaigning advice.

I find that core on a single page, 111, unrelated to anything around it, yet the linchpin of the book. It's a sudden, surprising discussion of the psychological significance of monsters. It reads in part, "These fiends express what we are at the deepest and most inaccessible levels of our consciousness. ...[T]he vampire is so much our own reflection. Vampires feed as we feed, by killing, and through death can feel the same dread, guilt, and longing for escape... They are the poetic expressions of our deepest fears, and the shadows of our primal urges.

"...So must we descend into the depths of our mind in order to learn what is really there...."

How it scares you: VAMPIRE turns out to be an unlikely but compelling version of the hero-quest, described by Joseph Campbell and others. Vampire PCs constantly struggle against the Beast, the animal urge within. Characters have one to ten Humanity points that they gradually lose, by committing increasingly awful crimes or by succumbing to the Frenzy, the mindless fight-or-flight reflex. When you run out of Humanity, like Sanity in CALL OF CTHULHU, the Storyteller takes over your character as an NPC.

The game's campaign advice strikes this note over and over, often capturing it in a phrase: "A Beast I am lest a Beast I become." Vampires are driven to violence to survive, yet only by regular feeding do they fend off Frenzy. "They must defeat the monster within by exerting self-restraint, nurturing the impulses of human virtue, and displaying genuine courage" (p. 201). This is a powerful idea, one with (not to be frivolous) a lot of blood in it.

Evaluation: I played in a PCs-as-vampires scenario several years ago, using another game system. It creeped me out. There were villains to fight, yet the real horror came not from enemies nor monsters, but from what my character and the other PCs were forced to do -- more precisely, what we found ourselves capable of doing. It was intensely disturbing.

Rein-Hagen has very consciously captured that experience in VAMPIRE: The Masquerade. He has founded it on the psychological basis for vampires and for horror stories themselves. If you're up for a potent and even passionate roleplaying experience, look for this game.

Be sure to look carefully -- the photographic cover features a marbleized green-on-green logo apparently designed to fade invisibly into store shelves. Talk about a masquerade!
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