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Close to the Edit

Requiem for a Dream

by Ross Winn
Sep 29,2004

 

Requiem for a Dream

Lately I have been obsessed with catchy titles for my columns. Who knows what has brought this sudden and profound shift in my thinking. Maybe it is the sound-bite culture that has made me so angry at times and has led to the decision that I have not had a television in my home in some years. Well, my former roommate had a television, but even he basically watched movies and the news. That seems too much for me lately. I have a cable-modem and no cable. I have a DVD player on my Powerbook. I have very little patience for people like Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, Alex Trebek, or Ted Koppel. So television has no soul, but I love a catchy phrase.

Which brings us to this column, and to Vampire: The Requiem. This is a catchy title, no? I mean when I want to game I want to think of death, rose petals, and soulless existence, the struggle with my inner demons, and searching for the sweet release that only death can bring. Ah, escapism. Actually I think that vampires should be perky little Goths with rosy lips and swinging hips, but then I am somewhat insane. Well, not so much that you can prove it in a court, but still.

As pretty and evocative as the book is I just can't help but be disappointed. As good as Vampire: The Requiem is, it still left me wanting. Before we get to all of that, let us talk of the other things; what was 'old and busted', and what is now the 'new hotness'.

The Camarilla, old and busted. The "five families", new hotness! The five families are coming to a fatsplat near you, and they are: Carthians, Circle of the Crone, Invictus, Lancea Sanctum, and the Ordo Dracul. Each has some unique flavor when compared to the Clans of the previous World of Darkness; yet just when you get familiar with the new order of things, the old orders start to creep back into the picture, Malkavians become Malkovians, in one of the more obvious instances. There is more good than bad, however. With the "five families", you also get a variety of origins for vampires. The best part about this? None of them include Cain. I hated the Cain myth. I thought it was a complete cop-out, and was appalled at what it did to the game. Your opinion may differ, but I like the fact that he is out of the picture.

For those of you new to the White Wolf publishing model there are generally two kinds of supplements. "Splats" which are topical supplements under 196 pages, and generally softcover, and "fatsplats" which are generally over 200 pages and hardcover. It seems that with the exception of a very few books Exalted is a hardback model. The new World of Darkness looks to be a pure hardback line.

There are many different reviews out there for Vampire: The Requiem, and the World of Darkness, so does talking about it here really gain anything substantial? That is the question really, so I am going to try and put my own unique and irreverent spin on things. It may be useful to you, and it may not, but it shouldn't be boring or stale to either of us.

The changes to the game that I see as a relative outsider are quite good. I especially like some of the emphasis points, and we will get to those later. As my last column was titled, it really does seem like shiny, happy people in the World of Darkness. There is a lot more here to discover than there was in the World of Darkness of the mid-nineties that I remember. As I think I mentioned in the last column as well, I left the World of Darkness in about 1997 or so, out of disgust with the seemingly constant revisions of the later nineties. One of the other issues was that it seemed more and more that it was all the same, the same, the same. Vampires were not individuals, they were dots.

Games that reduce the characters to nothing more than relative scores on a piece of paper miss the entire point of roleplaying. I have talked about how important motivations are to me. Vampire: The Requiem seems to have validated a lot of those beliefs, and I am grateful for it. Motivations are key to the undead. The text goes so far as to say, "Without them you would have not survived the embrace". A powerful statement and the most strongly worded impetus for survival motivation ever published in an RPG.

Finally, I left because of the growing disparities of the Storyteller system. As werewolves, magi, hunters, fae, mummies, and ex-wives were added to the world and the system, the system became more and more broken. I don't want to belabor these things; this is a new World of Darkness, and hopefully all of those things are in the past. By the sample that I have seen so far these issues may never occur in the new version, and that is a good thing. I think that the verdict isn't completely in on this, and it will remain a challenge to the World of Darkness for some time. One thing is for sure; the team seems up for it. Justin Achilli and company has done a great job of writing and editing the book.

As an aside: The nice people at White Wolf should pay special attention to the LARP community. It is my opinion that the LARP rules should be a codicil to the rule book and not, like Minds' Eye Theater, a separate book. After running live roleplaying events from ten to three hundred people over seven years I think I can say with authority that rules of over four pages of complexity are too difficult to use.

The Storytelling system Vampire does seem to make sense. Some of the power levels have been tweaked, and some of the powers do not look to be available. However, since we do have five more 'fatsplats' to come, it may be too soon to judge this but all of the signs look good so far.

I generally like the mechanical parts of the game. I like the streamlined combat system, the very general skills, and the relationship of bloodlines and disciplines. I also mentioned that I love the fact the White Wolf has spent a lot of time talking about motivations and characters. I have always thought that motivations were the crux of the character experience, and it is nice to know I am not completely alone.

All of the positives aside, there are things I dislike. There are many things that Requiem has in common with the Masquerade. Frankly, I think that this is too bad. Shouldn't there be more? Aren't the possibilities for unlife and revelation nearly endless? Or are these all the possibilities the lost souls of our characters get to consider? I hope to see some new and groundbreaking ideas, and Requiem does not really fulfill those needs, but there is still a lot of time and opportunity. I also really dislike all of the profanity. As I have mentioned before, I am not a prude. However, I don't think the profanity adds an erg of energy to the ideas presented. I don't really think it adds anything to the story. It almost sounds shrill.

The text of Vampire: The Requiem mentions werewolves, mages, demons, and wraiths, but sadly no changelings. So it seems that chapter is closed. This is too bad, for, while it is the world of Darkness after all, having a game that could focus on the lighter side is good for balance. There is also the fact that Changeling has a rabid and very committed fan base. It is possible that demand could make the team at White Wolf reconsider, we shall see. One thing I am very happy about was their mention of Kindred of the East, or at least an allusion to it. This was an amazing product that at the time came completely out of left field. I look forward to seeing more of that in the Storytelling system.

Even with all of the reservations I have about certain elements within the game, maybe it really is too soon to say for sure. While I like many of the new things, I dislike the older elements. As the new World of Darkness is created there may be more for us to like, and less to reconsider. Take a look. Support White Wolf if you think that they are making progress. I think I will. My wife, whose fondest gaming memories are from a long-running Vampire LARP, is sure we will be.

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What do you think?

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