Joe Terranova LARPer, Nerd Organizer, Web Developer. Not the CNBC guy
Vampire the Masquerade V5 Review

Planetside: The 90s are long over. Time to move on. Time to be someone else.

The past month has been a weird time to be a World of Darkness fan for many of us. After a large outcry over just a small preview from the V5 book, many fans have been wondering just what the rest of the book looks like. Having gotten an early preview, here are my thoughts.


The 90s are long over, and many things have changed, including our attention spans. So we’ll start with the summary and break it down from there.

V5 is a bold leap forward for Vampire, and a great step towards bringing in new players and bringing back old ones. But we should remember that bold leaps usually have some missteps, and that’s OK.

  • V5 has numerous setting changes that reinvigorate the game and make it feel new again.
  • V5 should be much easier for a new player in 2018 to pick up and play than older editions.
  • V5 seems to have learned numerous lessons from both previous editions and Vampire: The Requiem, and made excellent compromises between the two.
  • In many places, V5 has fixed the white European and American focus of Vampire.
  • There are seriously sensitive and troubling topics in V5, but the same is true for previous editions. V5 at least takes the time to discuss how to handle them.
  • There are some tone-deaf portions of V5, but this isn’t new for Vampire if you’ve been paying attention. There are missteps in V5, and White Wolf has taken steps to put those pieces into better context.
  • For the first foray in a new direction by a new company, V5 is damn good.

If you want an updated version of the same Masquerade you knew from the 90s, check out the comprehensive 20th Anniversary Edition. V5 is something new, and it doesn’t apologize for being so. With that out of the way, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty.

Update: When I first published this write-up, it was with an optimistic outlook for the future, that White Wolf had learned lessons from the V5 release reaction about meddling in real world politics, and things would be looking up. The follow up supplements (which were quickly ash canned) showed that those lessons were not learned. Now the leadership who had not heeded those lessons is no longer at the reins, the plans for the future of Vampire have been drastically scaled back, and the future of White Wolf and the World of Darkness is uncertain. My first impression of V5 remains here, unchanged, with added commentary at the end of what’s occurred since.

Setting Changes

The main departure from old editions, and what reinvigorates Vampire, is the drastic setting changes. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • In 2001, the Camarilla accidentally drew the attention of clandestine government organizations, and caused a “Second Inquisition”, with government officers around the globe secretly hunting down vampires wherever they can be found.
  • Ever wonder why the Sabbat are just sort of hanging out in cities around the world, instead of hunting down those Antediluvians they hate so much? Apparently the Sabbat did too, and they’ve now departed for the Fertile Crescent to hunt down the Ancients.
  • It turns out the Sabbat were right all along, and as they start actually hunting the Ancients, the Ancients have begun Beckoning their lineages to protect them. All Elders feel the call to head east to join the war, leaving their holdings unprotected, or in the hands of their childer.
  • With the Second Inquisition and the flight of the Elders east, the Anarchs have gone into full revolt, starting with Theo Bell executing his Ventrue masters and leaving the Camarilla. There are few “Camarilla strongholds” these nights, and contested cities are the norm.
  • The Brujah and Gangrel have joined the Anarchs, leaving only the Ventrue, Toreador, Malkavians, Tremere, and Nosferatu in the Camarilla.

The Good

Lessons Learned from Requiem

Vampire The Requiem, Chronicler’s Guide, Damnation City

Lessons learned from Requiem? If you weren’t a fan, let’s break that down before you go canceling your order or anything. Bear with me. It’s a good change.

As an overall setting, Masquerade has a killer metaplot and overall scope to its world, with few other games in the running. It’s an excellent backdrop for fiction, novels, comics, and a story that’s played out for decades.

As an actual game though, in many ways Masquerade is very hard to pick up.

  • With 13 Clans, even more Bloodlines, and an enormous number of powers, making characters is complicated.
  • The same metaplot that makes the setting vibrant hangs overhead when actually playing the game.
  • The rigid globe-spanning political structure makes it difficult to run a unique city.
  • Lower Generation characters are just plain better. Your characters aren’t that, and have to compete with a world full of non-player characters that can smoke them.

At a certain point, it seemed the developers felt weighed down by the Masquerade setting enough that they tried to reset it, into Requiem.

  • Instead of 13 Clans, there were 5.
  • Instead of a strict metaplot and history, each city is isolated and unique, history is vague, and the game is a toolkit for building your own political society.
  • There is no Generation setting your maximum power, making you wish you’d spent all your Backgrounds on it; instead there’s Blood Potency, which grows with age and XP like anything else.

In many ways, Requiem took Vampire back to basics, and in my opinion, made it a better tabletop game. One problem, though: much of the fanbase didn’t buy in.

The same heavy metaplot that weighed down actually running tabletop Vampire was what kept the fanbase following it, often buying new supplements just to continue reading the stories within. The Clans were simplified, but weren’t the Clans they’d fallen in love with, and were stripped of much of their uniqueness. The idea of Predator’s Taint (I’m still a fan, mind you) making Vampires Xenophobic and unwilling to travel … turned the fans off.

Onyx Path and now White Wolf picked Masquerade back up, and the community came back. But the central problem was still there: there’s simply too much to Masquerade.

Here’s how V5 tries to meet fans in the middle to fix the setting:

  • There are still 13 Clans, but many of them are offscreen. The clans detailed are the core 7, split across Camarilla and Anarch, plus Caitiff and Thin Bloods
  • Most of the Elders are offscreen too in the East, leaving the cities to be the playground of the Neonates and Ancilla.
  • The Disciplines have been reduced and combined, merging their best powers into fewer disciplines, and letting players choose alternates for different power levels.
  • The best of Dementation has been merged into Dominate as alternate powers.
  • Quietus (the clown car assassin discipline) is gone. Silence of Death is part of Obfuscate, and all the blood stuff is merged into Thaumaturgy as “Blood Sorcery”
  • Included in the alternate powers available are “Amalgam” powers, providing what Combo Disciplines/Devotions/Techniques have provided in the past.
  • The Camarilla still exists, but is greatly weakened. They don’t have the top-down power anymore to make every city a cookie cutter replica.
  • Generation still sets an absolute cap to your power, but Generation instead caps Blood Potency. You have the leeway to grow.

Masquerade games based in a city have always gone one of two ways: the characters get pulled in different directions or played liked fiddles by vastly more powerful Elders, or the characters, beyond all logic or reason, manage to upend the city and take over. In V5, the Elders are gone, the upend has already happened, the hierarchy is collapsing, and the characters can jump right in and mess things up.

If you love the hundreds of Masquerade Canon non-player characters and their machinations, they still exist in the world, and there’s plenty of room for more fiction and novels about what’s going on in the East. But they’re not sitting on your characters. Your characters are the adults now, and it’s time for them to decide what that means.

The lessons learned from Requiem don’t stop there. V5 is truly a toolkit game. After laying out the setting and system, V5 spends an entire chapter laying out ways to change the game to your groups’ needs — including completely optional mechanics systems — and gives examples of different types and scopes of chronicles, similar to Requiem’s Chronicler’s Guide. It then spends an entire chapter on building a city from scratch, and the structures, politics, and conflicts within, reminiscent of my favorite Requiem supplement, Damnation City.

V5 does not pretend the setting is a uniform world. V5 is what you make of it, and it provides the tools and the guidance to back it up.

V5 is a Self-Contained World

Have you ever tried to truly explain the world of Masquerade to someone unfamiliar with it? Did you find their eyes glossed over somewhere around the Omen Wars?

For a new player picking up V5, they’ll learn everything they need to know to understand the world and play within it. That includes a sizable amount about the Caine and Lilith story, the Antediluvians, and enough context to play, but not enough to overwhelm. There may be more going on off-screen, but it doesn’t affect their ability to wrap their head around the actual game they’re playing.

Masquerade isn’t just for White Europeans

Theo Bell

  • The Ventrue may be obsessed with being in power in Western Europe and America, but the setting makes clear that’s not the case around the world.
  • In the East there’s a completely new sect with an Islamic background. They’re not caricatures, and they’re powerful enough the Camarilla has to work with them against the Sabbat. [I’ve been informed that the Ashirra are not entirely new, and are in Cairo by Night and Dark Ages supplements. This is, however, the most mainstream treatment they’ve gotten so far.]
  • Instead of “angry black man with a shotgun”, Theo Bell has turned his back on his Camarilla masters and is now the mascot of the Anarch Revolt, as well as a mediator between the sects.
  • The Tremere pyramid has been split, with the rise of a rebellious House Carna, tired of the restrictive patriarchal tendencies of the Tremere.
  • The character art is diverse, and character creation encourages players to play characters of different genders, ethnicities, and cultures. The game points out that playing stereotypes and cliches can be ignorant and hurtful, and encourages players to read up on the cultures they’re portraying, and talk to others for insight.

Update: a number of commenters have noted this isn’t entirely fair to previous Vampire canon, so a few quick notes:

  • There has certainly been representation of people of color in VtM before. The problem was that most of that representation happens in supplements, not in core books. As someone noted, the Ashirra (the Islamic sect) has a full supplement book, but how many VtM fans picked it up? Similarly, there are numerous people of color in the original Star Wars universe, if you also count all the EU novels. Most people are only reading the core book, so what you put in there means a lot.
  • Much of the representation is actually pretty unfair stereotypes. Like Theo Bell, the angry former slave with a shotgun that works for old rich Ventrue. Or the Ravnos, who are Roma with a hankering for theft and vice. Or the literal book World of Darkness: Gypsy.
  • Yes, Onyx Path’s V20 was better on this, and I appreciate the book – it’s on my shelf, I was at GM2011 to get it personally signed, and again, if you want a comprehensive, updated version of the Revised style of Vampire the Masquerade, it’s definitely good to pick up. The problem is that the last VtM book to actually be on a store shelf was Revised.

Blood is Important, and Hunger is Constant

Sometimes while playing Vampire, it can feel like blood is an afterthought. The feeding happens offscreen, and the characters just need to keep themselves “topped up” to avoid any real problems related to hunger, leaving them to just be undead Mary Sues with superpowers.

The gas tank vampire goes away in 5th Edition, and is replaced by a mechanic reminiscent of another of my favorite games: Don’t Rest Your Head.

Don’t Rest Your Head

In DRYH, your characters are insomniacs, fighting their living nightmares while trying to obey the golden rule: Don’t Fall Asleep. Their Exhaustion makes them more powerful by adding dice to their rolls, but Exhaustion leads them down a slippery slope towards the worst thing imaginable: falling asleep, helpless to your demons.

Similarly, when characters want to turn on a power, heal, or even wake up at night, they need to make a Rouse Check. If they succeed, everything’s fine and dandy. If they fail, they still succeed at what they were trying to do, but they also gain a level of Hunger. Hunger rates from 0 - 5, and you replace your regular dice with Hunger dice when rolling. Normal successes still work the same, but Critical Successes involving Hunger dice turn Criticals into Messy Criticals, ala “Congratulations, you succeeded at sneaking up on that mortal, and draining them dry while smearing their carcass across the wall. Mission Accomplished, right?" In a situation where murder isn’t an option, like making a painting in your Haven, a Messy Critical might be creating a beautiful painting, which betrays some part of the vampiric tradition, and could potentially hurt the Masquerade (and your character probably doesn’t notice that part).

The only way to be truly safe from Hunger is to drain a human dry — and like any previous edition, doing so requires your character to grapple with their Humanity (the rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated).

Do you aspire to eat your way down to being an Elder with high Blood Potency? Congratulations! Besides the Humanity hit, you’ve now reached Blood Potency 5, which makes you more powerful, as well as … more susceptible to your hunger. Now Animals provide no nourishment at all, Humans provide less than they used to, and your base Hunger is 2 instead of 1. There’s a reason the Elders have had trouble dealing with the Second Inquisition. The hunger grows only more encompassing.

There’s a lot to love here, and the toolkit nature of V5 is refreshing. Remember that toolkit nature of the game as we get into the less shining stars.

The Bad

Thin Blood Blood Alchemy

With the Beckoning of Elders to the Middle East, and the Second Inquisition swooping in on Vampires who fail at hiding their traces, V5 is the best time to be a Caitiff or a Thin Blood thus far. Like many Vampire editions though, V5 tries to give the Thin Bloods something cool to do and seems to miss the mark a bit.

Instead of being able to use disciplines, Thin Bloods can buy the merit Blood Alchemy, allowing them to make alchemical potions to use as powers. They need a recipe for each potion, along with the material components, and human blood of a certain resonance (we’ll get into that in The Ugly later).

The problem: it’s tedious, both in researching and making the potions. The Blood Alchemy specific recipes are sometimes sort of useful, including ones that replicate Thaumaturgy Blood Sorcery powers, but there’s no killer app within them. At Level 2 you can replicate actual Discipline level 1 powers, up to 4 Dot Discipline powers at Level 5, but the recipes are tedious (including requiring actual Vitae from a Vampire with the power), and the timescales are obscene (it takes a week to make a recipe for a 1 dot Discipline; it takes 3 years for a 4 dot one).

If you use Thin Bloods at the table, you probably want to read through Blood Alchemy and consider ways to hamstring it a little less. Whether that’s by reducing the time for research or throwing players a bone with some of the components needed. Otherwise, consider just giving them access to some disciplines, perhaps by giving them a “Discipline Affinity” for free; they have plenty of other limitations. V5 doesn’t really recommend having parties that are some Thin Bloods and some not, and my guess is that the limitations of Blood Alchemy are why.

The Nitty Gritty of the System

V5 Specific Vampire Dice

When rolling dice, a 1-5 is a Failure, a 6-9 is a Success, and a 10 is a potential Critical Success. If you have 2 10s, you have a Critical Success, which counts as double the successes (so two 10s counts as 4 successes). The difficulty of a challenge is set by the number of successes, not the target number of the dice (which is always 6 now).

So you have a 50/50 shot when rolling, with a little better of a chance of getting a Critical Success. So far so good. The problems come in with:

  • The examples of successes on rolls in the book skew to expecting successes to be a little too high, hovering around the 4-5 level. That assumes 8+ dice in a fairly low dice pool game. In the playtest version, getting a Critical Success meant an automatic win; in the final version, it just means 4 successes, which means some of the higher difficulty rolls end up being nigh impossible.
  • The Hunger dice end up making rolls a little wonky and give you risks with no reward. Instead of high Hunger being a dangerous game, it’s just a liability. I would’ve preferred Hunger dice to stay both dangerous and powerful.
  • In the playtest version, even one Hunger die at 10 meant you have a messy critical; now you need matching 10s like with normal dice. Your end result gets messier, but isn’t any easier to achieve.
  • Getting a 1 on your Hunger dice and then failing the roll gives you a Bestial Failure. However, that includes failing contested rolls, so you’ll have Bestial Failures frequently in combat.
  • Initiative seems to be based mostly on shrugging. After a convoluted setup in the playtest that’s been scrapped, the end result in the book appears to be 1) established close combat fights go first, 2) then ranged combat, 3) then newly initiated close combat, 4) break ties with Dex + Wits.
  • It also provides an optional system of just doing initiative order by your Composure + Awareness rating, and in this, it follows the rest of the book in being a toolkit game. In my opinion, it would’ve been nice if at least all the core parts of the system were fairly rigid, instead of having to figure out which way to go each game.

There are definitely parts of the system to like — the probability is more reasonable than old difficulty targets were, and there’s a cool option to “succeed at a cost” if you don’t make the target successes by one or two. Overall though, I watched the system get moved around a bunch from playtest to playtest to the final version, and like many Great British Bake-Off challenges, it probably still needed some settling in to be fully cooked. Play around with it at the table until you find a happy equilibrium that works for you. At the least, you probably want to lower the successes needed for some things and be a little lenient with those Bestial Failures.

The Ugly

Abusing Humans as a Core Theme

Vampires are monsters, parasites on humanity. V5 takes this up to 11 and includes numerous examples of Vampires as wholly abusive to humans.

  • Many of the “Predator Types” characters can choose from are extremely abusive.
  • “Cleavers” take over a mortal family and use them to feed on, entirely taking over their lives and playing with their perceptions of the world for a sick game of playing house. They get the free Persuasion specialty Gaslighting.
  • The “Osiris” and “Scene Queens” essentially manipulate, gaslight, and coerce their fans until they can feed on them.
  • The “Sirens” seduce victims and feed off of them during sex. “You think of yourself as a sexy beast, but in your darkest moments, you fear that you’re at best a problematic lover, at worst a habitual rapist."
  • There are 3 options for creating Blood Alchemy potions: in a pressure cooker, inside your own body, or inside the body of a human you keep as an incubator. Keep in mind the latter one involves putting things such as depleted uranium shavings, grated refrigerator magnets, or hard drugs into the victim’s system.

Blood Resonance and Dyscrasia: Abusing People for Fun and Profit Minor Advantages

V5 adds the concept of blood having a certain Resonance: a specific taste and power based on the mental state of the vessel. If you drink from someone sad, you get Melancholy blood, which helps for Obfuscate and Fortitude. If you drink from someone angry, you get Choleric blood, good for Celerity and Potence.

Most of the time it’s just for roleplay purposes, but if you get blood from someone intensely of that temperament, you get an extra die to using those disciplines. In addition, to learn Disciplines out of clan, you need to both drink the blood of your teacher and blood of the right Resonance.

While there are probably less icky ways, at the low end of disturbing ideas, going for certain resonances includes examples such as hunting in women’s shelters to get sad scared blood, or purposefully frightening your victim so their blood tastes the right way. At the high end… there’s Dyscrasia.

Dyscrasias are very specific and acute blood Resonances developed over time, imbued into the person’s personality. These Dyscrasias provide very specific benefits, including the ability to reroll certain rolls, extra dice to an action, or spending less XP towards learning a Discipline. They are, however, rare, and sometimes you have to force someone’s blood to have a certain Dyscrasia…

“Once a victim acutely feels a Resonance, a properly callous vampire can begin the long process of manipulating them into a Dyscrasia. A love affair with a mortal lasting for months or years may lead to them developing an appropriately Sanguine clot; keeping a victim locked up for months to endure repeated waterboarding or brainwashing could develop a Melancholic or Choleric Dyscrasia, depending on the precise sequence and nature of the confinement.

V5 does note that such actions erode humanity, but it’s important to remember there are vampires in the world torturing humans for months to gain minor advantages. That’s horrific. The Humanity hit just means that characters are less likely to do it.

While the inclusion of gaslighting and torturing humans into having their blood taste a certain way definitely gets V5 to the dark tone WW was hoping for, it’s a bit beyond what I’d want to bring to the table. I would likely drop the idea of Dyscrasia so as not to encourage characters to engage in that sort of behavior; I might drop the idea of Resonance entirely for the same reason.

Encouraging Players to be Abusive

If characters fail a roll that had 1s on their Hunger dice, the PC gains a Compulsion. The compulsions don’t specifically require the PC to be abusive, but may require them to establish dominance, or commit serious harm, among other things. If the PC roleplays out the Compulsion well enough, they get a willpower.

While there’s room for things to get hairy RPing a compulsion, at least you know it’s the system that caused it. What gets awkward is when there are suggested compulsion system variants where STs push compulsions on players just because they think it’s appropriate.

Keisha gets shot down by her chosen meal at a local dive bar. The Storyteller urges her, “Surely such insolence must not go unpunished?" and she must choose to either spend a point of Willpower to resist acting on this Compulsion or she must go with the urge and gain a point of Willpower.

While the intention is for STs to make characters struggle with their Humanity more, the concept of STs pushing extra abuse from the characters is decidedly uncomfortable. Perhaps there are groups that are OK with such behavior, but I see this as a very uneasy dynamic to add into a game.

Undead Monsters with Monstrous Politics

One of the places that V5 concepts become extra uncomfortable is in examples that shift a little too close to real-world politics.

  • The now infamous example of Neo-Nazis embraced as Brujah
  • The example Brujah archetype of fascists that believe Brujah blood is superior to other clans, embraced from right-wing fundamentalist mortals.
  • Princes who try to secure the 5th Tradition and keep unacknowledged vampires out of their cities through supporting draconian mortal immigration policies.

White Wolf contends that talking about these topics in a game is fine, as long as you warn players first. To that end they’ve added a new preface to the PDF of the book, explaining that while the game includes monsters, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to be a monster, and an appendix to the end, which flat out says the game isn’t for actual Neo-Nazis.

With darkness ranging from Compulsions to establish dominance over your victims, to using humans as living incubators for your blood potions, I believe there was plenty of darkness already without dragging in politics we’re still reeling from in the real world. My hope is that the reaction they’ve received will convince White Wolf to tread more carefully here in the future. However, I hope the shadow of these missteps won’t hurt a game that otherwise makes some excellent moves forward.

Dealing With the Ugly

I’m sure there will be players that are happy with the game at face value. If you’re one of the players who can’t take the taste of some of the uglier parts of the V5 setting, what’s a group to do?

V5 is a Toolkit Game — Use It

When the initial reactions came out to the preview slice, one of White Wolf’s initial responses was saying groups didn’t have to include parts they didn’t like. Reading the full book, that is not just pandering — there’s a whole chapter on how to modify the game to your group, because like Requiem, V5 is a Toolkit Game. I can’t emphasize that enough. If groups take advantage of it, each group’s V5 can have a thoroughly different feel to it.

In addition, the final PDF includes an extra appendix called “Advice for Considerate Play”, including numerous calibration techniques for finding your group’s comfort level, and players letting each other know when the story is close to exceeding it.

Use the toolkit. Use the calibration. Care about the well being of your fellow players, and take their concerns seriously.

Nazis Are For Punching

The Brujah might include Nazis, but so did Superman cartoons in the 1940s. Superman cartoons had Nazis so Superman had a bad guy to punch off of cliffs.

V5 includes plenty of horrible people as character concepts, political and otherwise. However, the V5 setting makes an important change to previous settings: no one you encounter is untouchable. The Eldest are gone to the East, everyone else is Ancilla or Neonate, and at the very least, everyone is susceptible to the Second Inquisition. If your group doesn’t want to ditch the worst of the worst ideas entirely, you can still include them solely for the purpose of having characters to diablerize without feeling bad.

In Germany there’s a saying: if there’s a Nazi at the table and 10 other people sitting there talking to him, you’ve got a table with 11 Nazis. Free speech is important, but there’s no room for apologizing for, or providing comfort to, hateful people who wish to murder others over their ethnicity. Nazis should be uncomfortable at your table; Nazis should not be at your table; White Wolf unequivocally stated this game was not for them. I highly suggest you to look twice at anyone upset at the idea of only using Nazis and racists purely as antagonists, if at all.

Update: I’ve received a number of comments tearing into my review, and while I agree this review is not perfect (when trying to review a VtM book in the context of its entire franchise history, there’s a certain amount of simplification that has to happen for your review to not be long enough to require hardcover binding), they all seem to end their rant with being fairly upset with this point. On RPG forums I can’t get to the exact root of their anger, but luckily on reddit I can look at their comment history to see that they believe: immigrants are destroying Europe; Mussolini wasn’t that bad a guy; people actually really like fascism as long as you don’t call it that.

So, to follow up in this point: if you think this section applies to you, and I’m saying you should be punched in the face, you are probably right. Die mad about it.

Only Play V5 with People You Trust

V5 is full of avenues for abuse, monstrousness, and forms of horror. While it has a toolkit nature, the toolkit is only as good as the group using it, and the toolkit is equally capable of making the game lighter and more horrific. While Vampire’s horror plays in the framework of Humanity inhibiting that monstrosity, the toolkit allows Humanity to take a backseat.

When playing with a group, make sure they understand your limits, and everyone understands where the boundaries are. If a Storyteller or other players ignore those limits, or try to use game mechanics to force you to move beyond those limits, never play with them again. Our gaming time is short, and even if we’re comfortable roleplaying abusive characters, this does not give others the license to abuse us in real life.

As the new preface says: “This is a game about monsters. But it is only a game. Don’t use it as an excuse to be a monster yourself.”

V5 Setting and Mind’s Eye Theatre LARP

The lead up to the V5 release has caused a rather mixed reaction in the community, and I think one of the reasons is the hanging question: how do the V5 setting changes affect the future of Vampire LARP?

The answer, currently, is it doesn’t. A MET version of Vampire 5th Edition is still well beyond the horizon.

Personally, while I feel that many of the darker themes in V5 — both in terms of extra avenues of abuse towards humans, and real life monstrous politics seeping in — are best left out of LARP, I’m excited for the idea of some of the V5 setting aspects making it into the LARP version.

Vampire LARP Desperately Needs a Shake-Up

Across settings and versions, numerous attempts have been made to change the setting of Vampire. BNS’s MET edition drastically changed the setting, weakening both the Camarilla and Sabbat, changing clan alliances, and adding an extra threat of Hunters.

Unfortunately, players mostly seemed to ignore the change and continued playing the same way as they have for 20+ years. STs run the same plots in the same ways without regard for the updated setting. The headcanon has become more important than the written game itself.

My hope is that the setting changes of V5 would provide such a shake to the LARP canon as to be impossible to ignore. Your Elders are gone. The Camarilla is nowhere near as strong as it once was. The Anarchs are a real threat, and there’s a reason to be happy to be a Thin Blood.

The Camarilla Must Cease to be All-Powerful

Over the years of Vampire LARP, the Camarilla has been presented as an all powerful, all seeing entity, able to squash most forms of PC action. This leaves the Anarch movement as impotent lackeys hanging around the outskirts of society.

While current editions of MET Vampire have the Camarilla and Sabbat as the main adversaries, they’ve traditionally been diametrically opposed enough to never be in the same room. Anarchs with real teeth would provide a political adversary that can’t be shrugged off in game. Again, BNS MET tried to give the Anarchs those real teeth, and the LARP community mostly shrugged it off. My hope is that V5 can force the issue, and change the political landscape.

Update (August 2019): The nymphs are departed

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Originally I ended this post on a positive note, noting that White Wolf was reacting positively to feedback about V5, had brought out Jason Carl to promise things would change, that they’d hired community managers to better engage with the fanbase, and that they’d take a stronger editing hand going forward to keep things on track.

Since then:

  • A couple months after V5’s controversial release, the Camarilla and Anarch supplements came out, with similarly problematic issues with real world politics, as what I noted in V5 Core, except up to 11.
  • The Camarilla book included the homosexual persecution in Chechnya being a front for a vampire run government … who also wanted to persecute homosexuals. This resulted in quite a bit of outcry – including, ironically, from the Chechnyan government itself.
  • The Anarch book included a discussion of how many new Anarchs end up killing themselves, and this being considered a good thing, since it weeded out the weak.
  • Unlike when V5 complaints came out, by the time the supplements came out, WW had been absorbed back into Paradox, with an interim CEO.
  • Both the supplements were halted, with the problematic parts edited out, preorders fulfilled, and then not sold again.
  • White Wolf will no longer be writing books, and instead books will be writen by Modiphius and Onyx Path. Additonally, Martin Ericsson (the Creative Director behind the V5 story and the supplements, including the political parts) left White Wolf.
  • Much of the larger planned future for table top and Larp (with as the hub for a living metaplot and game tools, and a unified V5 Larp Chronicle run by By Night Studios) has been scrapped. Though there are still video games and other aspects in the works, the table top and Larp future are unclear.

It remains to be seen whether V5 will recover post-Ericsson, but the original release of the Camarilla and Anarch supplements showed that lessons were not learned, though the leadership who did not learn those lessons appears to be out of the picture. There are a number of pending books from Onyx Path and Modiphius, as well as several video games in the works, and the well received online play show “LA By Night”.

If you’re willing to ignore the tone deaf pieces of V5, it’s a very interesting foray into the closest Masquerade has gotten to an “Essentials” release. Let’s stay tuned to see where the World of Darkness goes from here.

Praise Caine and Pass the Ammo (to the East, I suppose),

- Joe Terranova