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V5 Touchstones and Humanity; Why I dislike them

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  • #16
    Generally, I'm the storyteller for my group and run Chicago By Night, but decided to run my version of Los Angeles by Night to allow the my players to explore the 5th edition setting changes (and the new mechanics) through the lens of neonates. Otherwise, if we played Chicago by Night, or their old characters, there's just so much backstory to either play or fill, that it would be a major chronicle of its own. I role-played their preludes from mortals to vampires, and
    developed numerous mortal characters. Since
    e the start of the chronicle, I've deeply involved their touchstones and other mortals into their stories. Its the juxtaposition and tension of the Kine and Kindred that has led to some of the best character development. Where the touchstones cross with the plots of the Kindred, it connects the characters in a personal manner. The mechanics of humanity (conviction), touchstones, and the Hunger really support the exploration of what it means to be a vampire.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
      Vampire can be about multiple things but I do think you lose something fundamental when you forget being a monster is something you're not supposed to Embrace.

      YMMV.
      Being a monster was always more about what you do than what you are, in my book. Yes, vampires have a higher propensity of ending up as monsters, for obvious reasons and the Humanity system was there to give rules for that.

      However, stepping behind the existential angst of a fresh vampire and concentrating on other themes too isn't equal to reveling in being a monster, again, in my book. Tales beyond the nightly struggles, with high politics, globe-spanning conspiracies and epic powers could still have a moral element to them.

      I'm standing behind my assesment that a part of the fanbase never wanted, or liked going beyond the initial premise and "promise" of the game, despite the game itself going beyond them pretty soon (but not dropping them, mind you, just getting more stuff) in its original run and a lot of other fans liking the other stuff. However, what gave birth to the pejorative "pretentious vampire angst" trope wasn't that propensity of those fans on itself, for their preferred playstyle. It was the derision and turning up their noses on the plebeian "D&D" gamers", who liked those other aspects and parts of the game and embraced them fully. Yes it is/was elitism and yes, the writers themselves were guilty of it sometimes too, giving fuel to it.




      If nothing worked, then let's think!

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      • #18
        Originally posted by PixelPuzzler View Post
        So the premise here is fairly simple. Humanity as a system exists to more or less punish players for being shitty and add some drama for doing so. Not a bad idea. Touchstones seem like a way to encourage characters to care about humanity and Humanity by giving them concrete representations of what they value.

        Here's the issues I run into, having played Revised, V20 and now V5. The game is supposed to be one of personal horror but I've never actually played in one in over 6 years that wasn't just political intrigue. Humans are never interacted with outside of using them as tools, they just get a social discipline dropped on their head and move on. No one interacts with or cares about humans in most iterations of the game to my experience, and focusing on them detracts from what I have seen to be people's actual interest in the game. Politics and Power (Disciplines and otherwise).

        I've been in a few games of V5 so far and this co tinues to hold true. No one interacts with their touchstones and hell, you don't even really need interactable touchstones per many of the books suggestions (Baseball players and the like, people you just glance at from afar once every week). So touchstones are just a theoretical for the most part, a minor distraction during chargen and either forgotten about or distracting from the actual "fun" bits of the game.

        Adding to that, Humanity falls into a similar boat, slapping you with a penalty that discourages you from interacting with humans even more as it drops and discouraging you from playing the way the writers portray vampires. Vampires are callous bastards who don't give a shit about people in all the written stories and in most games and honestly just giving your enemies more weak points to target, which will ruin you. Add to that the insane difficulty of raising humanity and the inevitability of incurring stains thanks to hunger dice and I see little point.

        So I think touchstones are largely just a huge section of wasted material, humanity is an annoying stick for the GM to slap you with, and the whole combination just something that gets in the way of actual gameplay.

        Thoughts?

        I feel the same way. When it comes to Masquerade, I don't care about humanity, or humans in general. If I wanted to play as somebody who cares about humans, I would be playing Hunter, or possibly Mage. But I'm not playing Hunter or Mage, I'm playing Vampire, and I expect the game's narrative to portray that. I've never actually played the game (despite owning V20), but if I did, I would nearly always play a vampire who's following one of the Paths of Enlightenment.

        The lore regarding the game makes it explicitly clear that vampires are inherently solitary predators by nature. They aren't social creatures, like humans are; in fact, they regard social interaction as nothing more than a tool for getting what they want. While they may work together in coteries during their early nights, they gradually split up and go their separate ways as each member becomes powerful enough to survive independently from the rest. The implementation of Touchstones, and emphasizing a need to adhere to a system of morality that goes against the vampire's inherent nature feels like it's trying to contradict this. Saying one thing about vampires, while doing the exact opposite with them.


        If V5 didn't decide to chuck the Paths out the window and force players to follow Humanity, it might not have been so bad. But from the sounds of it, V5 is very much pushing for a more sympathetic take on vampires. Something which I personally do not think was necessary, because that isn't what drew me to the series. The thing that first drew me to World of Darkness was the fact that it was a game that let us play from the monster's perspective, with a fully fleshed out society that extended beyond simply raping, killing and eating folks.

        I don't want to play Angel, or True Blood, or Twilight.

        I want to play Dracula, or Blade, or Lost Boys!

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post


          I feel the same way. When it comes to Masquerade, I don't care about humanity, or humans in general. If I wanted to play as somebody who cares about humans, I would be playing Hunter, or possibly Mage. But I'm not playing Hunter or Mage, I'm playing Vampire, and I expect the game's narrative to portray that. I've never actually played the game (despite owning V20), but if I did, I would nearly always play a vampire who's following one of the Paths of Enlightenment.

          The lore regarding the game makes it explicitly clear that vampires are inherently solitary predators by nature. They aren't social creatures, like humans are; in fact, they regard social interaction as nothing more than a tool for getting what they want. While they may work together in coteries during their early nights, they gradually split up and go their separate ways as each member becomes powerful enough to survive independently from the rest. The implementation of Touchstones, and emphasizing a need to adhere to a system of morality that goes against the vampire's inherent nature feels like it's trying to contradict this. Saying one thing about vampires, while doing the exact opposite with them.


          If V5 didn't decide to chuck the Paths out the window and force players to follow Humanity, it might not have been so bad. But from the sounds of it, V5 is very much pushing for a more sympathetic take on vampires. Something which I personally do not think was necessary, because that isn't what drew me to the series. The thing that first drew me to World of Darkness was the fact that it was a game that let us play from the monster's perspective, with a fully fleshed out society that extended beyond simply raping, killing and eating folks.

          I don't want to play Angel, or True Blood, or Twilight.

          I want to play Dracula, or Blade, or Lost Boys!

          You can do all of those things with V5. Yes there is a morality system, same as every other incarnation of Vampire. And no we haven't gotten the paths yet. But that doesn't mean they have been "chucked out the window". Much like the Sabbat book, we simply don't have it yet. The rollout of V5 is almost identical to the rollout back in the old days. Start with the top 7, release a city book, a couple of side books and deal with the rest later in future supplements. We just need to be patient as it has already been said that there will be a Sabbat book which will likely contain the paths since thats really where they always have been.

          There is nothing wrong with the way you want to play it, but Vampire has ALWAYS been presented as a social game. Now one can easily discard the social aspect in favor of another style...whatever fits your style, but it's simply false to say that VTM wasn't a social game. Yes Elders are often solitary however if you look at any Primogen or Sabbat pack, it's easily proven that VTM was designed to be a social game, especially when you consider that at the end of the day VTM is a roleplaying game where a group of friends sit around and play as a group.

          At the end of the day, V5 is just as versatile as any other version of VTM. Use the aspects you like and discard what you don't. But I like the increased pressure to actually RP. I got lucky because all my PCs are excellent roleplayers but people new to the game may not be and that definitely gives them something to work with and bring them out of their shell should they so choose.


          Currently running: Gary/Chicago By Night

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
            If V5 didn't decide to chuck the Paths out the window and force players to follow Humanity, it might not have been so bad. But from the sounds of it, V5 is very much pushing for a more sympathetic take on vampires.
            It really, really isn't. On the contrary, I think the game has never been clearer on the fact that these are monsters, creatures who are not always in control of their actions and who generally change their surroundings for the worse in the end.
            As for the rest: See Schwartzung.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post

              The lore regarding the game makes it explicitly clear that vampires are inherently solitary predators by nature. They aren't social creatures, like humans are; in fact, they regard social interaction as nothing more than a tool for getting what they want. While they may work together in coteries during their early nights, they gradually split up and go their separate ways as each member becomes powerful enough to survive independently from the rest. The implementation of Touchstones, and emphasizing a need to adhere to a system of morality that goes against the vampire's inherent nature feels like it's trying to contradict this. Saying one thing about vampires, while doing the exact opposite with them.
              Vampires are designed to be solitary predators, yes, but being something by design doesn't make you what you are. The human part of them that is still there and forces them to be social, and herein lies the tragedy of it. The Embrace forces the worst sort of ostracism, they are doomed to live on the edges of human society while never being part of it despite how much they want to, and in their solitude they seek out the only people who understand them, other vampires. It's a paradox and arguably the core struggle of the game.

              Besides, loners rarely make good characters for a group game like Vampire, you're suppose to play with other people on the table, so like it or not your character needs to be social to some degree.

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              • #22
                Also the way I see it Paths of Enlightenment are a copout. In the end they all boil down to "I want to be the worst possible thing I can be, because that's cool and edgy".

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Shawarbaaz View Post
                  Also the way I see it Paths of Enlightenment are a copout. In the end they all boil down to "I want to be the worst possible thing I can be, because that's cool and edgy".

                  And what's wrong with that? I love playing the character who's just a straight up villain. No emotional backstory, no sympathetic cause by which he fights for. Just a good, ol fashion bad guy, who does bad guy things because he's having fun with it. And when you take a look at popular villains throughout fictional history, they have often ended up becoming some of the most memorable and iconic characters within their respective series!


                  Schwartzung I never said Vampire wasn't a social game, I said that vampires were not social creatures. They do not have an inherent need to interact with people to stay healthy, unlike mortals who's sanity begins to diminish after shutting themselves off from society. Yes, vampire politics are a thing, but the books have pointed out time and time again that the decline into becoming a selfish, power hungry tyrant is inevitable for all but the most strongest willed kindred. To them, socializing is not a necessity, it is a tool they use to advance their own schemes in unlife.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post

                    Schwartzung I never said Vampire wasn't a social game, I said that vampires were not social creatures. They do not have an inherent need to interact with people to stay healthy, unlike mortals who's sanity begins to diminish after shutting themselves off from society. Yes, vampire politics are a thing, but the books have pointed out time and time again that the decline into becoming a selfish, power hungry tyrant is inevitable for all but the most strongest willed kindred. To them, socializing is not a necessity, it is a tool they use to advance their own schemes in unlife.
                    Like I said vampires are not social creatures, but the human who inhabit the vampire's physiology is. It's a paradox, the human need for companionship versus their nature as predators designed to be solitary. Vampires go lonely like humans do, which is why they Embrace, over and again, trying to fill that loneliness.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post


                      And what's wrong with that? I love playing the character who's just a straight up villain. No emotional backstory, no sympathetic cause by which he fights for. Just a good, ol fashion bad guy, who does bad guy things because he's having fun with it. And when you take a look at popular villains throughout fictional history, they have often ended up becoming some of the most memorable and iconic characters within their respective series!
                      I can't name a single villain like that who isn't ridiculed as comical and unbelievable. People have reasons to do what they do, no one thinks they're the bad guy, no one. Mustache-twirling villains who are just evil for the sake of evil just don't exist in real life.

                      Vampire is a world of grey, adding black to the mix is a mistake.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Shawarbaaz View Post

                        I can't name a single villain like that who isn't ridiculed as comical and unbelievable. People have reasons to do what they do, no one thinks they're the bad guy, no one. Mustache-twirling villains who are just evil for the sake of evil just don't exist in real life.

                        Vampire is a world of grey, adding black to the mix is a mistake.

                        How about Millificent? No, not the live action movie version, I mean the original Millificent. Nobody asked for her backstory, because nobody thought she needed one. She just showed up on screen and immediately made it clear to everybody in the room that she was the new main character, and you were going to put her on your top ten lists for the next couple of decades.


                        Or the Joker, who's true origins are intentionally left ambiguous even to this day. The Red Hood story we got from The Killing Joke is not his confirmed origin. It's just the version that's become most famously associated with him. And even though he's an abject nihilist, who believes that chaos and depravity are the inherent nature of human society, he's regarded as one of, if not the most popular villain in DC comics?


                        And then there's Frieza, an intergalactic tyrant who's career is conquering inhabited planets and selling them to the highest bidder. He is blatantly sadistic, manipulative, and all around self centered. Yet he now enjoys the status of being Dragon Ball's most recurring villain, as well as one of its most popular non-saiyan characters.


                        It's not about whether or not they're believable, it's about whether or not they're fun. Sometimes, people want to enjoy an escapist power fantasy, and playing the villain is one way to go about doing it.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post

                          It's not about whether or not they're believable, it's about whether or not they're fun. Sometimes, people want to enjoy an escapist power fantasy, and playing the villain is one way to go about doing it.
                          Vampire is a horror game first and foremost, "a game of personal horror" right there on the cover. Horror is the opposite of power fantasy. Horror is noticing you have no agency whatsoever, in the end.

                          Besides, most of the villains you mentioned are memes at this point, they're utterly devoid of substance, especially the Joker. He's a cliched villain who acts evil for no other reason than pure insanity, that's bad writing.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Shawarbaaz View Post

                            Vampire is a horror game first and foremost, "a game of personal horror" right there on the cover. Horror is the opposite of power fantasy. Horror is noticing you have no agency whatsoever, in the end.

                            Besides, most of the villains you mentioned are memes at this point, they're utterly devoid of substance, especially the Joker. He's a cliched villain who acts evil for no other reason than pure insanity, that's bad writing.

                            Bad writing or not, doesn't change the fact he's one of the most popular characters in regards to his fictional universe. Long time fans were actually getting angry, when the Gotham series revealed they were going to show his origin story, instead of leaving it a mystery.

                            I know the WoD is supposed to be about personal horror. But I never really sympathized with that perspective when it came to vampire. Like I said, the reason I got into WoD in the first place was because I wanted to play a monster, not a human. The only game in the classic WoD setting that makes me emotionally uncomfortable is Changeling, because it works in reverse, by slowly grinding out everything that makes the character special, and turning them into a bland, ordinary mortal who's forced to live in a society devoid of magic and freedom. I would enjoy being a Vampire, or a Shapechanger, or a Mage.

                            I would be horribly depressed if I were a Changeling.
                            Last edited by Nyrufa; 04-21-2019, 10:50 PM.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post


                              Bad writing or not, doesn't change the fact he's one of the most popular characters in regards to his fictional universe. Long time fans were actually getting angry, when the Gotham series revealed they were going to show his origin story, instead of leaving it a mystery.

                              I know the WoD is supposed to be about personal horror. But I never really sympathized with that perspective when it came to vampire. Like I said, the reason I got into WoD in the first place was because I wanted to play a monster, not a human. The only game in the classic WoD setting that makes me emotionally uncomfortable is Changeling, because it works in reverse, by slowly grinding out everything that makes the character special, and turning them into a bland, ordinary mortal who's forced to live in a society devoid of magic and freedom. I would enjoy being a Vampire, or a Shapechanger, or a Mage.

                              I would be horribly depressed if I were a Changeling.

                              Believe me, you won't enjoy being a vampire. The moment you find yourself killing your nearest and dearest in a fit of frenzy, or caught in another Kindred's byzantine intrigue, or forced into complete ostracism and hermitage and finding yourself slowly succumbing into depression borne out of solitude, you will realize this. The glamour of "superpowers" will fade pretty quickly,

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Shawarbaaz View Post


                                Believe me, you won't enjoy being a vampire. The moment you find yourself killing your nearest and dearest in a fit of frenzy, or caught in another Kindred's byzantine intrigue, or forced into complete ostracism and hermitage and finding yourself slowly succumbing into depression borne out of solitude, you will realize this. The glamour of "superpowers" will fade pretty quickly,

                                Well the thing about that is:


                                1 - I'm not stupid enough to hang around my loved ones after being turned into an undead, blood sucking predator. I never understood the idea of vampires trying to establish a bond / relationship with mortals, if they did not plan to embrace them. That is a ridiculous concept that is doomed to end in tragedy from the onset. At the very least, make them into ghouls!


                                2 - I think the byzantine intrigue would serve to keep unlife interesting. There's always something going on, and it beats the repetitive monotony that most mortals have to endure.


                                3 - I'm already accustomed to a life of solitude, due to a host of disorders that make social interaction difficult for me, even at the best of times. If the Beast feels like joining that little party, it's going to find the place more crowded than they were expecting.


                                4 - No, I don't think the glamour would fade. To me, a world without the supernatural is a world without happiness or meaning. When I was younger, I was a true believer in magic, and did everything in my power to try and find some evidence of its existence. I would be overjoyed if I went through the Embrace, or the First Change, or the Awakening and discovered that my faith in the existence of such creatures had not been in vain. I objectively despise the Technocracy, for its attempts to stamp out and destroy magic, turning the world into a mundane, secular universe with laws that never change. I don't care if magic comes from God, or Satan, or our own willpower, or some mischievous horned king of the forest, or even from cosmic horrors that defy human comprehension. The fact that magic exists at all would be enough to keep me happy, and I would gladly die to ensure its continued existence.

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