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.
The Ventrue badass Victor Temple has claimed Barony, laid a smackdown, and dropped a solid reference to the Sabbat in a single night. Spoiler (in my brain anyway): The fact Victor even knows the Sword of Caine and their righteous glory means it’s only a matter of time before this Ventrue reveals his true colors as a Crusader and reclaims L.A. for the Sabbat.
So what does this all mean? If you haven’t played Vampire: The Masquerade over the past few years or are new to the game, this prior paragraph may come off as a ton of gibberish. It makes as much sense as the Harpers and the Zhentarim going at it in the city of Cormyr does to non-Faerun players. Yet if we strip away the terminology, we find that the worlds of kings and queens in fantasy, and the gritty streets of L.A. By Night where vampires wage a shadow war have one major similarity: feudalism.
In perspective, vampires have lived for thousands of years and old habits die hard. The character Victor Temple has taken actions in the game to rise to the position of Baron, giving his (and his coterie) vampires prime territory for feeding in the city. In doing this, he has become one of the most powerful vampires by social clout alone, and perhaps one of the most targeted. Now he will have to navigate through a delicate pie of other kingdoms such as the Camarilla or the Sabbat to carve out his piece of the pie. It’s good to be on top, however, so let’s see why vampires want it…
The Powers Of Princedom
The Camarilla, the Ivory Tower, or tomorrow’s dinner has many names—but the position of Prince has always stayed the same. It’s iconic to the game line of Vampire: The Masquerade and serves as the most targeted position in every vampire LARP in the nation. In the story, a Prince is a vampire who has risen to rule over all undead in a city, and balances the various clans to create his empire of night. Balancing feeding grounds, politics, and ancient grudges a Prince is someone who has commanded and earned the respect and fear of all Kindred in the city. In his power, is the ability to grant a mortal unlife eternal, or declare a vampire forsaken and have them killed. The Prince can parcel out territories to coteries, or dictate odd behavior as a custom for hospitality. In short, he is a king who often rules for decades, if not hundreds of years.
In practice… the Prince tends to last about six months. Actual gameplay in any campaign (and even more so in V5) means that the beast is that much closer to the surface, and what storyteller won’t put a thousand problems at the Princes feet. only the Prince can hold his position for longer is through the use of coterie, favors, and luck. With the Second Inquisition on their tale, they also have more work cut out for them. Luckily; everyone has a price. When you have both the Right of Destruction and the Right of Progeny in your arsenal, you’ve both a threat and a bribe to bring people in line.
The Baron and You
So what world did the Victor Temple take over and what does he get? Despite all the talk of camaraderie and freedom of the Anarchs they can be just as brutal as their Camarilla counterparts and Victor may well find himself corrupted by his newfound power. A Baron can order someone killed, just as easily as he can banish people from his turf, or even have their eyelids clipped off with nail clippers and hung upside down from a tree (this may be a very specific example). The point is, a Baron can do all the same things a Prince can do—and even more. The Anarchs aren’t as structured as the Camarilla so there isn’t a check and balance with the Primogen council or a rigid set of traditions for a Baron to follow.
Instead, the Baron has infinite power; with an itty-bitty social prison. Every action they take must appear as something vested for the betterment of the domain, the sect of Anarchs, or the greater good. You can’t demand respect for personal glory, but instead stand on a soapbox of civic duty. The Baron has to work with the gangs and coteries in his city, appoint councils, and make sure they have good Emissaries to talk on their behalf to other cities and sects. It’s not quite as efficient of a power base as a Prince, but a clever Baron can rule with incredible creativity and seem like the good guy the entire time.
Always Someone Above, Always Someone Below
No matter who you are in the World of Darkness, there is always someone above and below the Prince or Baron. In V5, they place a heavy emphasis on coteries. These coteries have official job titles within the domain that nest them neatly into the cities politics and is one of the greatest features in the V5 book. The Cerberus Coterie exist to protect or guard a certain spot, such as a priceless relic, or a special domain. The Day Watch is a coterie that guards the undead city from mortals, especially during the day when Kindred sleep and is often made up of thin-bloods. Any Prince or Baron would be wise to pay special attention to the Coterie Section of V5 and help play matchmaker to fill these jobs and tasks.
In the Camarilla, above the Prince rests the Archons and Justicars who police all cities to make sure they follow Camarilla doctrine and stay in line. Barons have to contend with Heroes of the Anarch Movement; undead paragons who fought tooth and nail for their freedom and still have agendas of their own.
Truly, in the world of Vampire: The Masquerade, even at the top… there is always another ladder to climb.
What is the shortest duration Prince you’ve ever seen? I’ll start with an hour after the game started. Let us know in the comments below!
Are you ready to jump into the World of Darkness? Be sure to join us for Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night tonight at 8 PM Pacific for the finale on Twitch and Alpha! Not an Alpha member? Get a free 60-day trial at projectalpha.com with code BITTEN!
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Featured Image: Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
Image Credits: White Wolf and AH_Illustration
Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.