More random VTM 5e ramblings

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed running every session of VTM 5e. I like the characters (and the players!). I like the setting.

BUT… weirdly I often have to force myself to do the prep for the game. Recently, some of that might be stuck-in-lockdown related feelings of meh. I think there may be other things in play - no pun intended. There’s been quite a steep learning curve, for example, that the flavour/style of the game as presented in the rules is not how the game actually plays if sane human beings are those playing it. In no particular order.

Quirks of the simple combat system, as moaned about in a previous thread.

The game as written seems to assume folk will end up with a lot of Hunger dice, and will frenzy and fumble all over the place, and lose Humanity like it is going out of fashion. This simply does not happen. My players race off to feed the moment they get a single Hunger die. The PCs are neonate level, so they are not even accumulating Hunger dice that fast - most of their Disciplines are Level 1, free to use things.

If I was starting a campaign now, there are a whole bunch of things i would/wouldn’t do:

  • Make sure every PC has at least 2 convictions/touchstones. These are the plot hooks for the PCs. In the current game Mike has 3, Roger has 2 and Dave only has 1. I flounder a bit trying to find stuff relevant to Dave’s character.
  • Be better at spotting and rejecting Convictions which can’t be challenged. The conviction You’ve Got To be Cool has turned out to be just too woolly/open to personal interpretation. If I was starting from scratch, I’d make sure each player supplies some concrete examples of how their Conviction can be challenged.
  • Having the thing the PCs were guarding (Cerberus Coterie) underneath their Haven was a big mistake. The central motivation of a Cerberus party is to fight off threats to the McGuffin they are guarding. But in game mechanic terms, they get a bunch of points to make their Domain/Haven unassailable, and then the players spent some more on the McGuffin hiding place. So the whole thing is effectively invulnerable. The Inquisition get -3 to their dice pool to even notice something odd in the area, then the PCs get +1d to passively resist the noticing. Then even assuming the Inquisition manages to succeed in noticing the place is vampire central, they have to roll against 4d to break in (again BEFORE the PCs are even involved). Next the Inquisition have to fight some NPCs. Assuming the poor dears aren’t all dead or completely exhausted by all that, we finally get to the bit where the PCs make some dice rolls of their own… With the benefit of hindsight, I should have kept the McGuffin and the Haven as separate sites, and had some tension about leaving one to defend the other…

Meanwhile, as I posted on the Tavern recently: running VampireTM5e has driven home to me that (you’ll be glad to know) I’m not a scheming bastard willing to trample over everyone else’s dreams in my path for power and influence. So I fail to force my brain to think like a scheming bastard willing to trample everyone else’s dreams etc etc. Thus I have trouble coming up with plots suitable for a bunch of scheming bastards willing to trample everyone else’s dreams in their path for power and influence. Unfortunately, I think VTM is supposed to have a lot of that scheming in it.


The (partly whimsical) thought occurred to me a few years ago that the classic WoD games sort of map out the stages of human life:

Changeling is children living lives of fantasy and resisting adult banality (Calvin is a perfect Changeling!)
Werewolf is adolescents driven by passion and tribal loyalties
Vampire is college students (of the age I would have called “tweens,” following Tolkien’s usage, had that word not been applied to preadolescents) who’ve discovered staying up all night and political cliques
Mage is adults who’ve gained knowledge of the real world and power to act in it, and face the twin problems of how to protect that power and what to do with it
Wraith is old people trying to maintain integrity and motivation in the face of death

(Of them all, I find Mage most appealing and Vampire least. But that’s just personal feeling; I’m not offering it as a critical assessment of either.)

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Well, consider John P’s scenario we were playing last weekend, which if we hadn’t all been experienced and paranoid gamers might have gone rather more the way he’d planned…

I was finding it difficult at first to think of things for Mirek [my PC] to do (rather than to react to), but he’s now developed a grandiose and impractical goal so that seems much more viable.

I agree that the thing we’re guarding hasn’t come up much, though (not knowing the setting) I’ve been assuming it will become relevant on its own terms (via visions etc.) rather than as a target for other people.

The impression I get from hearing about other Vampire games is that a lot of the time both PCs and NPCs go straight from “I want the thing” to “I will take the thing”. Of course, if your schemer knows people who work like that, he can rely on them jumping when presented with bait.

(As a side note: because of the way I run games and the games I’ve run, I now have mental models of several senior Nazis available in the part of my head where NPCs live. It does get a bit disconcerting when I hear about something current and an emulation of, say, Himmler pops up to say “oh, right, that’s that old trick”. Which is obviously just my subconscious putting things together, but…)

My friend Ant once described his experience of playing a Methuselah age vampire:

I am Lord So-and-so, an millennia old vampire. Down through the centuries, human affairs have been held in the palm of my hand! Empires have risen and fallen at my whim! But tonight… just for one night… I shall become crap! Because I’m being played by Ant!