Twenty-seven years ago Vampire: The Masquerade was released in 1991, and it’s been through a few iterations thus far along its journey. Our RPG show, Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night is diving into the Vampire: The Masquerade’s Fifth Edition and the World Of Darkness it resides in. If you’re as excited about it as we are, but aren’t familiar with the universe, here’s a crash course get you up to speed.
Vampire: The Masquerade has a very pretentious (at times) and a difficult balancing act between human and monster. As a character focused RPG with elements of horror, conspiracy, intrigue, and sadness; the storyline only matters if the characters are invested. In order to keep the characters invested, storytellers have to play off their players. All tabletop RPG games can feature these elements, and even a dungeon crawl can feel like a terrifying and haunting experience. No matter the game, players have to be in the minds of their characters for this effect to work (otherwise you are just staring at a sheet of paper with stats).
In L.A. By Night, we see the characters like Jaspar and Victor play every Friday in full costume, speaking as their characters, acting like them, and taking elements of their personalities. It is very similar to a Vampire: The Masquerade Live Action Roleplaying troupe in this regard (albeit a very small one). There are entire communities for the entire World of Darkness line that is dedicated to getting into character and running scenes. Today, we can find everything from LARPS, Tabletops, Con Events, Discord servers, immersive video games—so clearly, this is a thing. So how do we fade away from our real life personas and become our immortal characters?
The Daily Life
Costumes are hands down, one of the most iconic and often seen Vampire methods for getting into character. Even at your tabletop games! Even a simple suit jacket or a collapsible fan that your character uses helps create a tangible connection that you are ‘donning’ the persona of the character. If you’re attending a full LARP experience and taking you costuming a step further… it can often mean you are imagining getting dressed as the character before you attend Elysium. Players don’t need to run out and buy new clothes, or have elaborate make-up if they don’t have a clue what they are doing (raises hand); identifying which t-shirts you think your character would wear can work. The important part of this step is finding a portion of you (the player) and your character that are connected. Everyone’s characters have a little bit of ‘themselves’ in them in some fashion—you’ve just got to bring it out.
Once you’ve donned your fashion, music and playlists can help finish the transition. As your driving to your game, or your storyteller plays a few songs to set the mood to let your mind wander. What the heck does your Brujah do on Tuesday when Elysium isn’t happening? How exactly does your Malkavian character feed when trapped in the suburbs? It’s not like there are hundreds of people wandering out alone at night. Running through the daily life of your character in your head (with some tunes) works for any game, any story, and any event. When we play our characters we are “on screen” during the important times. It’s highly unlikely that a storyteller is going to ask just how hot the water is when your character showers.
Fade In Before Game
This tip is found from full immersion LARPs. Once you’ve made it to the game and had your pre-game handshakes, finished your coffee, and have found your clan—one, two, three in character. Often dictated by the storyteller at the table (or running the larger event) everyone will take a three-second pause before declaring game on. I’ve seen this done before accompanied by narration, where the storyteller has had over a hundred players close their eyes and describe their journey to Elysium. After the narration was done we counted to three and everyone was suddenly in character.
Perhaps it’s a drama club hold over but fading into characters as a group gives everyone permission to be someone else for a bit. When playing Vampire characters on alternative paths of morality, true monsters that have abandoned humanity, this is needed to help separate the player from the character. Nobody in real life wants to be friends with an actual Path of Night villain seeking to end the world and return it to nothing. Getting into the mindset of that character can be horrible to do on a weekly basis, which is why the next part is vital.
Fade Out and Post Game
Vampire players… you’ve gotta come back to reality. We aren’t dark monstrous people who look at humans as sources of blood, and the Sword of Caine’s cause is a bit friggin’ crazy if you really think about it (even if they are the good guys). Vampire: The Masquerade hinges upon that beast that lingers within your characters forcing them to regret their immortal existence. At the end of the game, fade out as a group and shake your character off. Smile, go out for drinks, check in with each other, and take off a few parts of your costumes if possible.
We will have a further article about bleed and dealing with difficult topics at the table in the future. For this article, we wanted to highlight the importance that getting out of character, can do to help you get into character. Week in, and week out, you’ll play these characters and once you develop a routine that works for you—it becomes possible to adopt the character mannerisms, ideas, humor in one moment and then discard it like an overcoat when done.
Alright, let’s do it! Share your Vampire Character theme songs and other pregame tips below!
More Vampire: The Masquerade Gaming goodness!
Image Credits: Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition, L.A. By Night
Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age Series, Dread Adventures, and a storyteller with a focus on D&D For Kids, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and an overdose of LARPs. You can follow the game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook or reach out for writing at [email protected]