Vampire: The Masquerade 1st Edition
: If you have every spoken to me about RPGs you will know that I am a fan of all manner of game systems and have read, played & ran all manner of games, from the origins of the genre through to the present day. Despite this, the major gameline (and occasional industry #2) of the World of Darkness is one I have little experience in and in particular the old, 90s World of Darkness is one I have very negative thoughts about. The mechanics are, in my mind, terrible and the metaplot-and-crossover-heavy background a sign of all that was wrong in 90s RPGs. I appreciate the aesthetic would appeal to some people but from a design point of view, I think it's pretty poorly constructed.
However, talk online drew my attention to the very first edition of Vampire the Masquerade which I have been reading over the past few days. Some people on RPG.net spoke of preferring the original version, which had a very different focus to later products.
I find the background much more palletable here, mainly because the book feels more toolkit and the world more open - ironically, more like the new World of Darkness than the later editions of Masquerade. The clans of the Camarilla are mentioned as is the supposed existence of 13 clans total, but the others are left un-named and the specifics of the Sabbat's construction is much more at a GM's discretion. The material on other inhabitants of the World of Darkness is much more appealing to me when it's a page or two rather than when it's a reference to a whole separate gameline - I'm fine with including werewolves but don't want to have to include Werewolves, if you know what I mean. I feel that using this book I can run George Quail's World of Darkness in the same way I can run George Quail's D&D or George Quail's Mutants & Masterminds.
The lack of metaplot or indeed any reference to the potential existence of metaplot is a big bonus for me. I've written a time or two
( or three
) about metaplot and why I dislike it - and World of Darkness was a big part of the metaplot craze of the 90s. Here, though, while there's occasional reference to mechanics being expanded on in future supplements there's no assumption of metaplot events to come. Yes, there's implied existence of mega-ancient bastard vampires but they're no different to a D&D game assuming the existence to demon princes - they're tools for the GM, not the mandated cast in an NPC theater.
Without world-shaking metaplot even the focus of the game feels different. There seems to be a stronger focus here not on the other supernaturals, or ancient mega-monster vampires, or even Camarilla vs Sabbat vampire warfare..... but on the internal politics of your vampire's city and in particular between elder and junior vampires. Your player characters will probably be a couple of hundred years old max, whereas the heads of the city and the vampires who made the PCs vampires will be much older. They will be more powerful both physically and politically, and seek to keep that power for themselves. All versions of the game play up that internal politics, of course, but here it seems that "the rebellious youth" is far more important here.
Mechanically.... well, it's still a White Wolf game and even their fans will probably be happy to acknowledge mechanics have never been their strong suit. I much prefer nWoD's mechanics to oWoD, finding the single difficulty number for dice far easier to deal with than the "different difficulty every time and ones subtract" thing... and as per a previous post, the oWoD system can produce some weird results
Still, I find myself genuinely surprised that reading VtM first edition leaves me with the impression of a game I could use if I wanted to. Mechanically I'd still prefer to be using nWoD, or perhaps my own homebrewed Microlite Storyteller
, but I'd still be up for it. Aesthetically it may not be a perfect match for my interests, but the earlier edition sings more to my soul than the later ones seem to.