A Storytelling game of personal and political horror.
You are a vampire, struggling for survival, supremacy, and your own fading humanity—afraid of what you are capable of, and fearful of the inhuman conspiracies that surround you. As a vampire, you suffer the pangs of the Hunger, the relentless and terrible thirst for human blood. If you refuse to deal with it, it will overcome your mind and drive you to terrible acts to slake it. You walk this razor's edge every night. This is the original and ultimate roleplaying game of personal and political horror.
Another Classic RPG Where You Play As the Monsters [ edit ]
Like Call of Cthulhu, Vampire: the Masquerade is another RPG with a long history: three decades long in fact (the game was first released in 1991). Instead of fighting against monsters, as in most RPGs, V:tM allowed players to play as vampires, in a world similar to franchises like Interview With the Vampire, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, or Twilight. Just as in those settings the vampires of the "World of Darkness" (V:tM's setting) live secretly among humans in an otherwise normal world, hidden by a vampire conspiracy known as the "Masquerade".
The game quickly grew in popularity, resulting in a LARP variant (Mind's Eye Theatre), a series of related games (featuring werewolves, fay-tinged humans, ghosts, and more), a short-lived TV show (Kindred: The Embraced), and multiple video games (eg. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines).
However, because you play as a vampire in V:tM, the game really isn't a horror game in the traditional sense. Normal horror protagonists lack power, whereas the vampires of V:tM have both general vampiric abilities and special "powers". Those powers are things like supernatural strength, control of animals or humans, or astral projection, and which powers a vampire can choose depend n the vampiric clan that "embraced" the character.
Because of this power are hardly the frightened protagonists of traditional horror stories, and are instead closer to dark super-heroes. Thus, the horror in V:tM is a more internal kind: it comes from the characters wrestling with their own monstrous nature.
Vampires in the setting must constantly struggle with their inner "beast", which becomes harder to suppress when they grow hungry. When let out this beast can make them do horrific things (eg. eat a loved one) ... but if a vampire gets "creative" to ensure they're always fed (eg. by holding human slaves to feed on), the resulting "loss of humanity" is actually tracked in the game. If a character loses all their humanity the beast takes over completely and the character is forever lost as an animal.
It is this struggle for humanity which is central to Vampire: the Masquerade ... but at the same time the dark vampire setting and the fun of playing vampires with powers have also lead to the game's incredible success.
Vampire: The Masquerade, 5th Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Multiple Versions of Vampire to Choose From [ edit ]
Vampire has gone through several different editions over the years, but in 2004 something interesting happened: it's makers ended the game. A final series of products detailing an armageddon of sort were released, and then White Wolf (the makers of V:tM) replaced it with a new game ... Vampire: the Requiem.
Requiem was a similar game to Masquerade, but it simplified many aspects of the original. For instance, while the original game had a large number of vampire clans (which many players were attached to), Requiem eliminated all but three, adding back only two new ones.
Requiem was less popular than the original though, so White Wolf decided to bring Masquerade back, first with a 20th Anniversary revised version, and then with the latest (fifth) edition of the game. This game reverts the end of the world, but still places the setting precariously close to an apocalyptic ending, with plenty of new drama as a result.
The Latest and Greatest Way to Play Vampire [ edit ]
Combined with the latest overhaul of the game's rules (eg. a new system for handling a vampire's humanity, or loss thereof) Vampire's 5th Edition is it's best yet. While it didn't win the Origin Award for Best Roleplaying Rules (as the game's original edition did back in 1991), it was nominated for Best Role Playing Game in the 2019 Origin Awards, and the game also has a 7.82/10 on RPG Geek and 4/5 stars on Drive Thru RPG.
If the idea of playing as a powerful vampire, in a world controlled by even more powerful vampires, appeals to you, and you're looking for the kind of horror that comes from becoming a monster rather than running from one, you should see why Vampire: the Masquerade is an RPG so popular that it managed to "come back from the grave" itself!