I Hacked V5…A Lot

Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition came with a lot of asterisks, at least form my point of view. A new team of people; a failed attempt at a MMO; rumblings of issues with the playtest documents, and then issues with the text itself. Further problems with the following Camarilla book that were so bad that it ended up in a complete staff change.

For all of these reasons, I avoided V5 for a while. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t low-key for Nazis (it isn’t). I wanted to see how the shake-ups with staff worked themselves out, and what changes they’d decided they needed to make. I also just didn’t like the aesthetic of the new book – I get what they’re going for, but a fashion-forward coffee-table book was not what I was after here. I liked the grittier art styles of previous editions, and I also thought that a lot of OSR designers were doing much better, more creative work with art and layout. So it wasn’t enough of an art book to get my attention, and it wasn’t enough of a game book to get my attention that way either.

There were things I liked about it, though, based on the playtest documents and reviews that were out there. The Hunger mechanic seemed just right as a replacement for blood pool. I also really like many of the updates to the metaplot, with the Second Inquisition replacing the Sabbat as the main antagonist, and the Beckoning stripping the Camarilla elders out of most cities. I thought, if you’re going to have Vampire the Masquerade in 2020, this is how you need to do it.

Onyx Path’s Chicago by Night sealed the deal. The layout and art are much better than the core rulebook, much more my preference anyway, and I like how they updated the Camarilla’s feature city for modern nights.

Turns out, I have some friends who love Vampire the Masquerade. Two of them are actually two of the first people I ever played VtM with back in the day (the day being 1998). We’re still friends, and we’re still gaming. The D&D campaign I was running was failing to launch, so we all got next-game-itis and I thought, hey, want to play Vampire? Yes. Does this mean I’ll need to buy, read, and almost certainly hack V5? Also yes.

Fortunately, it was also the lead-up to the US Presidential election, so I had plenty of anxiety to channel toward writing. Sometimes, that even works! Instead of sleeping or fostering grim imaginings of a civil war between QAnon and Antifa (for the record, team Antifa here), I hacked V5 apart and redesigned it. As is my habit, now, I hacked it so that players roll all the dice, and got rid of a number of rules that thought just complicated things (like specifics around blood resonance). I simplified how backgrounds work and combined some redundant skills and…well, you’ll see, because I’ll be posting these hacks on this blog over the next few weeks.

Behold the Hoard of House Rules

I’m still working up to the point where I’m ready to write regularly here, but part of what I’ve been doing in the meantime is finishing the Hoard of House Rules. It’s…52 pages of stuff for D&D 5E ranging from new spells to new monsters, a psionic class with three subclasses, and a bunch of optional ways to handle treasure, combat, backgrounds and so on. OK sales pitch over.

Maybe A Pause

Written a week ago, but here in case it’s a lasting pause…

Hello. This post is just me.

It’s 4 in the morning and I can’t sleep. It’s almost exactly 11 hours and 30 minutes before our appointment to have our dog, Po, euthanized. He’s 16 and has obviously been a huge part of our lives.

It’s time, but such a hard decision. You always second-guess when you have to decide when a friend dies, I imagine. This friend can’t do the things he enjoyed any longer, is in pain every day, and his life is just diminished to the point where…well. We made the decision.

I’m devastated, and am going to be devastated for a while. I don’t know how long. Every time I think I’m about to be able to sleep I’m crying again.

I only mention this because currently there is only one blog post scheduled on Friday, and then I have to build up a back-log once again. But I don’t know how grief will go, and it might be a while before I write anything again.

So, probably not an end here (I do want to reach a thousand posts if nothing else) but very likely a pause, because a part of our lives is ending and it hurts.

Po rtrait

A young Po, 2005-ish

Saga of Recluse RPG Ideas

I’ve been testing some of the books that I enjoyed as an adolescent, and I’ve gotten to re-reading some of L.E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluse. I read a few forum comments by the author himself, though from 17 years ago, about how he has approached more than one RPG publishing company about a Recluse game, but that they gave up at some point because of the complexity and difficulty. Now, I can see this happening, talking to an author about their 19-novel series that spans 1900 years of history, but I don’t think an encyclopedic style game would make sense for recluse. I think a Recluse game would have to mirror the kinds of stories that the novels are – first-person narratives from the point of view of a nascent order-master or, sometimes, chaos-master, and then more broadly about how the repercussions of actions ripple through time.

So, what would a Recluse RPG need?

  • A system for chaos and order magic, including the interactions between the two, the balance in a given place or person, etc.
    • Also how chaos and order magic can be used to augment or even replicate skills
  • Tools for running single-player RPG sessions. There aren’t a ton of those out there, but I think there is a lot of potential here. Maybe you and your spouse want to game. Maybe you only have one friend who wants to play a RPG. I ran single-player games for my best friend for a few years in Middle and High School.
  • A system for playing out the repercussions of the character’s actions over time, affecting other stories
    • Maybe even taking Modesitt’s approach and placing the stories at different points along the timeline, with later events asking the question – how did things get this way. Something Microscope-ish
  • This could also be a GM-less/GM-full game, with one protagonist and then the surrounding characters in each scene played by the other players at the table. Maybe one handles order-chaos interactions, and one handles history and culture and call-backs to other events, one handles opposition, etc. Your standard GM-less/GM-full fare