Saturday, 1 June 2013

Vampire: the Masquerade

A Storytelling Game of Personal Horror

Brujah by Tim Bradstreet

When I first read this I knew intrinsically that it is about the story; not the ego of a gamesmaster nor the players. Sacrifices must be made between what we think we want, and what is to be done for the good of the story. It is primarily a story telling tool; that is its purpose, and there are rules and there are ways, to fashion a crafted drama of our saga. I had been reading Gustav Karl Jung on Archetypal symbolism and the Vampire motif summarized my feelings.

A whole huge history of storytelling tradition dating back through the aeons of human history is invoked, which of course in terms of the longevity of an immortal vampire is a living memory, the individual who was there at the time watching cultural references by the memories of others who can recall long ago nights of that other world, compared with the fire-fly fast mortal lives who twist the tale through its retelling, perfecting the art, perfecting the events, twisting them from what actually happened into a refined, distilled version that contains all the lessons required to educate the next of their generations. As I began to read the book I learned that my innate clan mentality to be that of the artful Toreador, to whom respect and appreciation of this narrative are best identified.

However; as a young teenager full of desperate anxiety and magickal and hope, torn amidst conflicting emotions at the confusing onset of puberty; the Vampire motif came at precision timing to deeply influence and guide my development.

Psychological and emotional, driven by powerful instinct to sate wild desires and learn the nature of this thing called Self, dare taming its wild urges and rage upon senseless repression as my feeling of self worth emerged, feeling a taste of the powers within, the creative flow that needed sating, earthing desire amidst an ocean off data overload and contrary advice. Steer your vices.

I watched the Lost Boys on loop and I read Anne Rice from Interview to Memnoch, in fact I read everything published about vampires up to that point (2000ad) and aside from Secret Diary of Count Lazlo which disturbed me for years; there is very little else in the genre worthy of reading. Vampire the Masquerade has it all.

This was in the hollow nights before Buffy: the Simple and Twilight: the Watered Down entertained the emo generation. We had to hide our inner demon, though we couldn’t know until experimentation whether this was to protect ourselves or the others from it.

When I saw Tim Bradstreets black and white graphic illustrations I knew at once that Vampire: the Masquerade is a game about liberal minded, leather and denim clad street Punks, Goths and Metallers, who just so happen to be vampires, fighting against the even more ancient and evil demons who sought to control the energetic youth and use their power for their own agendas, games, cycles of abuse.That the game coined the term "gothpunk" establishes that as a focal reference of the game to my way of looking at it.

The Embrace is a Turning Point. The kiss of death and of renewal. A vampire Sire becomes the Creator. As a virgin when I read these words at age fourteen, I recognised the subtext. It is a symbol for puberty, the change from childhood to adulthood, the awareness of self as a sexual creature. Dealing for the first time with oestrogen, with testosterone, with blood and the moon.

The Embrace is a symbol for the loss of innocence, loss of virginity and the pursuit of a lover, all the feelings we share. It is carnal and daring. It is; do I, dare I, take this one, be taken? Virginity in its truest sense means Virging, the approach to the breaking point of no return.

Upon us were put too many rules. I emerged from the repression and domination of a culture aimed to destroy teenagers and divorce them from nature. School forced us through 'the system' clad in ties and shirts and blazers, prepping us for 'the system' of workplace, ties and shirts and blazers, that's if we were lucky enough to get a good money job, otherwise we were Fail. Stress and control and subservience. I was indoctrinated into feeling that I was wasting my life if I was doing what I knew it was right for me to be doing; that unless I was doing what others commanded I should be doing, then I was on the wrong path. I learned to associate feeling bad about myself with following my instinct.

I was bullied in school, beaten daily until it reached the point where I needed the pain to feel the sharp focus of being alive, seeing deeper and further insight than my tv-dosed peers. My parents ignored me or beat me, constant screams because of their high tension lifestyles. My brother told everyone I was gay. I suffered.

“When will you Rage?” Werewolf: the Apocalypse

I didn’t rage. I was already too broken. Instead I got into drugs instead in a big way. By 19 I was hanging out with some of the biggest dealers in the country. My education into street life was accelerated. By 24 I was eating from skips because every coin  went on discs to record music. I had progressed from roleplaying, to making soundtracks to listen to while roleplaying, to studying sound as vibrational and harmonic verses discordant energy, how it can be used to manipulate psychology and therefore reality. I was a psychonaut and a scientist but not a musician. I wore black until I discovered wearing combat trousers influences highstreet zombies to walk around me instead of through me. By late 20s I had quit drugs, basically because I was immune to them all by then from building up a tolerance. For the first time I could afford food and internet. Due to having no regular job routine I had acquired life experience beyond most people I meet. I got clean; met a girl had a kid got divorced. The days of Vampire were long gone, a painful rite of passage. But its shadow runs long, especially at sunset. Its eye teeth bite deep.

Occasionally I would encounter a game group running a V:tM game. They ALWAYS AND WITHOUT FAIL got it wrong, they had missed the point. I argue, and was banned from succession of fan forums and websites dedicated to the game, that V:tM is supposed to be about, was originally intended as, a game in which the biggest part of the story was struggling with and battling with inner demons,  not with politics. The illustrations, the terminology, focussed essentially on anarchic characters pitted against a backdrop of rigid minded control abusers. This was the double-struggle, the purpose of the bloodsuckers in V:tM, with whom I had identified. It is not meant to be a game where the gamesmaster persecutes such characters in a variety of ways simply because they do not conform to his or her control regime.

In my game, the Anarchs win; they make a breakthrough, they get away with shit that is horrible and anti-social, but necessary to shake up a stagnant society into a more liberal state, where innovation is rewarded, not crushed underfoot and buried as example. So; why do these other storytellers always play it as such?  It seemed to me that they were re-enacting the backdrop, instead of concentrating on 'personal horror'. Maybe it was I who had missed the point? I gave up on it.

Last night in the dark hours I encountered this video:

Mark Rein-Hagen INVENTED Vampire: the Masquerade, before it went corporate and he left in disgust at internal problems of the rest of the company alienating him from his own original vision, from which has emerged Underworld, Ultraviolet, etc in its wake.

“Once you get into the history of things, I think that’s what you can bring out, all that beautiful lush poetry, but I like hardcore vampire stuff, I think that for me the Twilight sparkly vampire thing is appalling. Vampires need to be hardcore, I mean come on! They’re drinking peoples blood! They’re killing people, they’re murderers! They’re sociopaths and psychopaths. They are literally serial killers, you know? Especially the part of the FBI is set up to track down the most horrifying people. And yet somehow they’re making vampires as this romantic beautiful thing. And I think they are, but in so doing you cant lose sight of the fact that they’re bad. They’re bad! And they’re really bad, not like bad in a handsome cool guy way, in a bad way; I mean they’re evil! I think that’s really interesting in a way.

I think that was the whole point of the Humanity trait, is that eventually you run out of Humanity. I know almost no-one plays it that way. It’s not like most gamers, storytellers or gamemasters in Call of Cthulhu, they do enforce the Sanity rules, and I realize that in World of Darkness most storytellers don’t enforce the Humanity rules. But that was meant to capture that. 'A beast I am lest a beast I become'; that was the core principle of the game.” MRH

HAHAHAHAH I was banned from half a dozen websites for arguing that exact point with crap storytellers on ego power trips!

“A beast I am lest a beast I become”

“The Beast originally was meant to be a metaphor. For most of the time it was strictly a metaphor, it was only a metaphor. The Beast originally was basically the Frenzy. When you are a frenzy and you’re losing it, that is the Beast coming out.” MRH

“I had all this stuff about how you look in the mirror, you can see the Beasts eyes, looking back at you wanting to devour you.” MRH

“Always when I design games I try to think very cinematically, if this was made a movie, how would it look? This is very important to me because I think that’s how you saw games. So I had a whole thing about how where you looked in a mirror – that’s why they can’t see the reflection by the way, is because you can see the Beasts eyes, looking back at you, wanting to devour you. And this was thought to be a little too weird by the playtesters, a little too introspective and they wanted just to go out and shoot guns and kill people and blah blah blah. So I toned it down a little bit; but that’s where a lot of this stuff came from, a desire to personify a metaphor and to make it a real thing, which roleplaying does real well. An analogy, her stare was like broken glass, you might read that in a novel. In a roleplaying type game, you can make that; her eyeballs really do look like broken glass and that whatever she looks at breaks. You can bring these things to life, these metaphors, these analogies.” MRH

“The poet must not avert his eyes” Werner Herzog

"Of course the whole WoD is based on the idea that what you believe in is the Truth. So if you have a strong enough willpower, if enough people agree with you to believe in something; that will change the fabric of reality itself. Which of course is the whole idea behind Wraith, is that if people agree with you, you can break away and form a nice little realm you can live in, your own little paradise. But really for the main reality as well, this is true. This is what the mages do, they are able to have a strong enough will they are able to break the consensus and do what they want." MRH

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