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WIR Pre-made Vampire Character Templates

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  • WIR Pre-made Vampire Character Templates

    I think one of my favorite aspects of the old World of Darkness lines were the pre-made character templates found in the various Clan, Tribe, and other books. It was these things that initially drew me to the game in the first place. In 1992, I saw a copy of Clanbook: Brujah on display at my local comic and gaming store, and intrigued by the cover art, gave it a look. And inside were ten pre-made characters, giving me the desired reaction of "I can play that? Cool!". I'd soon pick up it and the 2nd ed core book, and to this day, I still own almost the entire run of classic WoD books. So, with a huge amount of free time on my hands for at least another week, I've decided to go back and reexamine the various pre-made character templates from the Vampire books.
    And, interestingly enough, this journey does not begin with the first ever of White Wolf's signature "splat books". Instead, the first pre-made character templates appeared in the first edition Vampire Players Guide in 1991. There are seven of them, one for each Clan, starting on page 18. And as I list them, you can probably spot a theme here.
    • Brujah Rebel (ie Street Gang Leader)
    • Gangrel Loner (ie Forest Ranger)
    • Malkavian Meddler (ie Troublemaker)
    • Skulking Nosferatu (ie Street Person)
    • Toreador Dilettante
    • Tremere Occultist
    • Ventrue Manipulator (ie Tycoon)
    If you at any time said to yourself some variation of, "Wow, that is some low hanging fruit," you are not alone. These are almost literally the first thing most new players would think of if asked to come up with a character for said Clan. However, I can't really fault them for that. This is one of the very earliest Vampire sourcebooks, and these templates are at the start of the very first chapter, Character Creation (which also includes the first of White Wolf's numerous lists of merits and flaws). The intro to this chapter even describes these characters as "the archetypical example" of each clan. And if you are totally new to the game, it's probably fairly useful just to see what a handful of character sheets look like as a basic concept is translated into stats and dots.
    Another interesting thing about these seven is that none of them have had their "freebie points" spent, so they are unfinished, awaiting the player to spend said points and customize the archetypical character however they see fit. And each write up offers a few suggestions of ways to spend those points.
    The one thing every single one suggests is buying up a bunch of Willpower. At first this struck me as a little odd. All of them have WP ratings of 4 or 5, which seems pretty solid. However, WP does have a lot of uses in the game, and I would notice when I started looking at the Clanbooks that those templates had WP ratings of usually 7+. While the descriptions for each level of WP in the core book is vague to the point of unhelpful (4 is "diffident"?), it feels a little weird that every PC is essentially expected to be some sort of super iron-willed font of internal badassery.
    This brings me to my next thing. Vampire WP starts with one's Courage virtue rating, while starting Humanity is one's Conscience + Self Control. However, every single one of these has their WP rating equal so their Self-Control and their Humanity equal to their Conscience + Courage. I'm just guessing whoever wrote them up got the traits backwards and no one caught it in editing.
    If one is interested in issues of representation, we have a male to female ration of 4:3. The Gangrel, Malkavian, and Ventrue are women. I give credit to the Toreador being male and the Ventrue female; Typically, you'd see this the other way around. This effort to show a fairly broad range of female characters (none of whom are remotely sexualized, btw) even early during its publication may or may not have had an impact of how many female fans Vampire and later the other WoD games attracted. (I'm not a woman, so I can't really say, but I have seen some female fans mention it over the years, so there is some anecdotal evidence.) Racially speaking, the art is all black and white, without much in the way of shading, so it's hard to tell. A case could be made for the Brujah and/or the Ventrue being black or Latin, the Tremere as Latino, and the Toreador as Asian, but the art style is such that it's really impossible to guess exactly what they were going for.
    Ability-wise, I will mention that all of these make use of the newly introduced secondary ability skills presented in the next chapter. The inevitable result of this is a massive skill creep problem, with every single one of them trying to spread their limited number of ability dots across a giant range of abilities, many of them hyper specialized, often to the detriment of the character's overall competence.
    Also, every single one of them just has one dot each in their Clan's three affinity Disciplines, even if it might make more sense for them to have something else.

    The Brujah's equipment includes a Colt Python and a shoulder holster. I don't think I've ever seen a street gang member - "punk or gangsta" (yes, that is how he's described) - carry their piece in a shoulder rig. I'm also not sure why someone would blow a skill point in a single dot of Lock Picking rather than just go for a dot in Security, which would accomplish the same thing while also offering the ability to, say, hot wire a car, if you spend a couple of freebie points. Leadership and Streetwise at one dot each also seems really low for a street gang leader, even before freebies. (His Social Attributes are also tertiary, with only two dots in each.) But with Brawl and Firearms at three each and Melee at two, it's clear this character is designed mainly for combat.

    The Gangrel is someone who has been familiar with the wilderness since a child and became a forest ranger, "fighting fires, tagging animals, and protecting the forests." She has a Remington M700 bolt action hunting rifle, and no skill in Firearms whatsoever. But she has two dots in Tracking, along with two dots in Survival, which feels redundant. Likewise a dot in Meteorology and three dots in Naturalist rather than just taking a couple of dots in Science (which is at zero). She also doesn't have a knife, which seems like a major oversight for a character who lives mostly in the woods. Which brings up the fact that there's not really any reason why this character might come to the city and interact with other vampires. But the strangest thing is the comment that this character is a forrest ranger because "the Gangrel Clan has a particular affinity for wild animals." I'm not sure why that makes more sense than, say, a veterinarian, a wildlife photographer, or a zookeeper.

    The Malkavian ... I am not and never have been a fan of the entire concept of the Malkavians as a bunch of people who go around causing problems for everyone else, be it motivated by a need to save the fairies from banality or just for shits and giggles. However, I will at least give credit for the fact that the character's prelude blurb makes it sound like she was a member of the Future Serial Killers of America club before being committed at a young adult. And this seems to be reflected by the Humanity rating of five. But that's before you take in to account that it should actually be seven if the Conscience and Self Control had been used instead of Conscience and Courage. The list of equipment is weird and slightly useless. "Straight jacket, anti psychotic drugs, hypodermic needle, crayons and coloring book." Why? I'd have at least given her a straight razor. Probably also fake credentials for getting in and out of the mental hospital that serves as one of her havens. The character is strangely familiar with Bureaucracy (two dots) and other languages, but has no grasp of Medicine or Psychology, outside of a single dot in Toxicology. And somehow knows how to use a gun (one dot in Firearms).

    The Nosferatu is basically a Vietnam vet turned homeless alcoholic turned vampire. (If you grew up in the 80s, this is pretty much Stock Character 101.) Overall, there's not really anything that stands out as wrong or odd about the character or his stats. Streetwise, Stealth, Survival, and Area Knowledge all at three dots each. Some might question his only having one dot in Firearms given his background, but I can easily see that skill atrophying during his time an alcoholic. The one exception is the strange single dot in Politics instead of something like Language or Medicine. Also, apparently all Nosferatu are cowards, as having low Courage is part of their modus operandi. Yes, it says that.

    The Toreador is interesting. The prelude describes him as someone who was a wealthy dilettante dabbling in the arts and hailed as an artist, attracting the attention of his sire, and using his sire as his muse to create art that was good enough for the sire to decide to embrace him. And then a month later, the sire denounced him as a hack and left. So he's trying to prove his sire wrong. I find this a really cool concept for a Toreador. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing else about the write up matches this. The further described concept is as a stereotypical Toreador rich layabout who flits about the local art world, mostly criticizing others. I'm not sure how this is going to prove his sire wrong. Stat wise, the character has one dot in Art, two dots in Art History, and two dots in Music. He also has three dots in Carousing and two dots in Dancing. And one dot in Chess. To borrow a phrase, there is no "there" there. Which is a shame, because I really liked the initial prelude idea.

    The Tremere is basically your bog standard occultist. Someone who had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and esoteric lore just because. Seriously, it just comes out and says the character has no motivation. Not for his initial interest in the occult, nor for adapting the stereotypical clan roll as "plotter". He is totally devoid of personality. His abilities include an Occult rating of four, which breaks the rules as this is before spending freebies. He's also missing a dot in his Skills. He's basically got some of every "magic" related ability in the new list of secondary abilities. Herbalism and Alchemy at three each, and Hypnotism and Meditation at one each. Effectively, the guy is a walking Occult skill and little else. His equipment includes "feather, penny, wood splinter or Sire's locket." I'm pretty sure that's what's on the floor of my car.

    I like the Ventrue. She's your standard Type A personality, having spent her living days busting her ass to make it to the top through skill and determination. And now that she's a vampire, she's not going to settle for anything less than eventually becoming Prince. I like that. It's a character with a strong focus and goals. She's got three dots each in Leadership, Bureaucracy, and Finance, and two each in Politics and Subterfuge. A really strong foundation. She also has two dots each in Diplomacy and Economics. While I don't have much of a quibble with the first, the second seems redundant with the character's Finance ability. Not entirely sure why she has a dot in Security. I think that would've been better spent raising her Etiquette from one to two. Her equipment is fine, though I think "dozens of identical business suits" should be "multiple stylish business suits."

    I'm actually a little surprised that there isn't a Caitiff one.

    Anyway, those are the original premade character templates. A mixed bag of good ideas, weird ideas, mundane ideas, odd stat choices, and some missed opportunities.

    Next, the original Clanbook Brujah.
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 05-12-2020, 03:25 PM. Reason: Spell checking.

    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

  • #2
    Clanbook: Brujah (Part 1)

    Setting the Wayback Machine for 1992, and the first ever White Wolf World of Darkness splat-book, the one that would set the template for everything that came after. Like I said before, this was the single book that first attracted me to Vampire and made me a White Wolf fan. I was 17 at the time, a massive metal and horror fan, with that general interest in vaguely revolutionary politics that felt rebellious and iconoclastic. And I would have totally dressed like the guy on the book's cover if I thought I was even remotely cool looking enough to have ever pulled it off. But it's easy to see how this book and its cover would have grabbed me in a way that, say, the Gangrel or Toreador books wouldn't have. And when I looked inside and found the character templates, I was at first further intrigued and eventually sold on the book and game. So let's take a look.

    The Anarch Terrorist
    In some ways, templates are meant to be a mix of those that are archetypical and those that break expectations. And this one is clearly archetypical. Almost the default Brujah archetype for much of the early years of the game, in fact. And overall, it's not a bad one. The character's origins lie in being a foster kid shuffled between various homes and developing a natural distaste - if not outright hatred - for anything that could be described as authority. I find the idea of a would be revolutionary who is still hurt and angry at their parents for abandoning them as a child transferring that anger to a series of stand ins until eventually reaching human government in general and now the Kindred's neo-feudalism to be really interesting and full of a lot of potential for dramatic growth and tragedy. She (the character art is a female) tends to instinctively lash out at anything or anyone she perceives as trying to control her in any way, and this is well reflected with the character's Rebel demeanor masking a Fanatic nature. Ironically, she doesn't play well with others, especially ones who don't share her dislike of authority and desire for direct action, but has the ability (reflected with two dots each in Intimidation, Leadership, and Subterfuge) to guide a group in the direction she wants it to go. And props for the write up pointing this out and mentioning how uncomfortable she is with this aspect of herself. It's a fun potential angle for a player to explore if they wish. Elsewhere, the character has three dots in Politics and Firearms, and two each in Security, Stealth, Alertness, Brawl, and Dodge. Also one each in Streetwise, Drive, Melee, and Demolitions. So this is clearly a character with a lot of combat in mind. Also a dot in the Fame background, which may seem weird, but the write up mentions a certain level of notoriety among various underground anarchist and would-be revolutionary groups. Humanity is at seven, which is "Normal" according to the 2nd ed core book, but given the character's background and proclivity for violence, I think a case could be made for it needing to be 6 instead. Likewise, Self-Control is a four, which feels maybe a little high given the character's previously stated tendency to lash out. Equipment includes the famous Desert Eagle. If you weren't around in the 90s, you probably aren't familiar with this pistol's weird popularity with certain types of gamers and armchair gun fondlers. Its claim to fame is that it fires a .50 calibre pistol round (ie, a half inch in diameter), and so in most games, it's given heavy damage stats, making it the one people gravitate towards. However, it is a really weird pick for a professional revolutionary/terrorist, who you'd think would prefer a more ubiquitous and harder to trace/easier to replace 9mm. She also has a bunch of plastique (plastic explosives). I don't see a major problem with this, but I think it would've been more interesting if the character had a couple of dots in Science and was able to cobble together homemade explosives and incendiaries. Over all, this is a pretty solid character.

    The College Professor
    And shifting right away to the other end of the spectrum. While the Brujah had an initial stereotype as rebellious punks, the Clanbook tried hard to balance this with the alternate archetype of intellectual philosopher. And that's where this character comes in. A dedicated teacher (the demeanor is Pedagogue) who bounced from college to college, never getting tenure because he wouldn't take the time away from teaching to actually publish anything. I admire that passion, and it fits really well with the clan. The character is far more interested in teaching - not just students, but ignorant clan-mates and other vampires - and in reforming higher education than in the usual Kindred political games. While the character has three dots in Politics, he also has four dots in Science, which would seem to be the field he mainly teaches. Also three dots in Investigation, which opens up an interesting potential angle of using the character as an armchair detective type, which I think would be fun. (The character also has one dot each in Brawl and Dodge, and two dots in Drive, which seems a little strange, but I can see this being picked up as some sort of educational trade off with a fellow Brujah student he tutored in computers, science, or politics.) The main oddity is that the character has the Instruction secondary ability, but only at two dots. Given the focus on and passion for teaching, you'd expect that to be higher. Humanity is a nine. That feels way too high for any character that isn't a pacifistic saint. That aside, this is another strong concept, though it might benefit from a few minor stat adjustments.

    The Computer Hacker
    Welcome to the 90s. So, curiously, none of the pre-made characters in the Players Guide had any Computer knowledge whatsoever. And now a year later we have a character who pretty much revolves around it. It may be hard to imagine now, but 20 to 30+ years ago, computer users tended to be this weird intellectual subculture, frequently full of people fiercely devoted to not having other people tell them what to do and especially not what to think. So they were a natural fit for the Brujah. The character is effectively a genius computer prodigy, having five dots in Intelligence and in Computer. This is the only character in the book with five dots in any Attribute or Ability, so he stands out. While the character is socially awkward (one dot in Charisma and Appearance, but four dots in Manipulation), he's surprisingly physically adept. His Physical Attributes are secondary, with three dots each in Strength and Stamina, and he has two dots each in Drive and Firearms. While this may seem out of place at first, the write up explains that, after the Embrace, the character began to see himself like a character in a cyberpunk novel, especially when he goes out on runs with the rest of his coterie. Humanity is eight, which again feels like it's maybe a little high, but I think a case could be made for the character being a little sheltered. However, again, this is a pretty solid character with a lot of flexibility, which is pretty good for one conceived around a single ability.

    That's all for part one. Next will be part two of Clanbook Brujah, with the next three or four templates (depending on how much space each takes), and then the remainder and final thoughts in part three.

    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


    • #3
      Clanbook: Brujah (part 2)

      First up, I forgot to mention that all of these templates were the work of Steve Crow, who wrote the book. And the character artwork is all by Josh Timbrook. (Timbrook also did a lot of 1st ed Werewolf work.) The artwork is all pretty good. It's got a heavy "early 90s not-TSR" vibe to it, that I remember from a lot of early White Wolf stuff as well as things like Nightlife, Cyberpunk 2020, and other games at the time. The character images all show a good level of personality to them, and help you "get" the concept pretty much immediately. Which I like.

      Continuing where we left off.

      The Elder Representative
      This is, at first glance, one of those characters that feels like an outlier. Basically, he's a low level grifter and con artist who was embraced by an elder Brujah just to be its mouthpiece among younger members of the clan. Which is, in and of itself, an interesting idea. Although one would expect any elder Brujah worth her salt to be able to overawe any young punk who refused to listen to her just because of her age. But that aside, one interesting bit about the write up is that the character's backstory in many ways echoes that of the Anarch Terrorist: Abandoned at an early age, left to fend for himself on the streets, and eventually attracting the wrong (or would it be right?) attention. But where the earlier character is devoted to a form of vengeance, this one is focused on self-preservation. To the point where he's already considering ways to get rid of his sire, which would make an interesting reason for those two characters to interact. The character's big focus is on Subterfuge (four dots) and Acting (three dots), with a smattering of other social abilities (Empathy, Leadership, and Etiquette at two dots each, Intimidation at one dot). He's also good at Bureaucracy and Politics (three each). The former makes sense to me as the character has probably long learned how to game the modern system of urban administration, civil service, and office paper work; the latter I suspect is something he had drilled into him by his sire to make him more useful. This is also the first character to have spent any freebie points on Backgrounds. He's got Generation maxed out (making him 8th gen), though his Mentor is only two. I suspect this is to reflect that his sire sees him mainly as a tool and not as a protégée. While this character is meant to be a weasel, and even the write up flat out says he's a lowlife, I rather like it. He's a guy just trying to survive as best he can, and has a lot of potential for growth in several different ways. I could easily see this character turning into an Anarch plotter or midlevel Camarilla player, depending on how things break in the campaign. And he feels like he's work really well in a film noir type game.

      The European Idealist
      Another idea that was introduced in this book is that of Europe's Brujah being primarily a bunch of upper class intellectual snobs. While this may seem a little odd, given that post-WW2 Europe had no shortage of "punk" style subcultures, but I guess it does fit with the idea that most of the continent's Kindred are older and more conservative in who they embrace. The character is the scion of an extremely wealthy family, though not nobility, and a product of private boarding schools and all the other trappings one expects of this sort of individual. He was basically groomed and given to his sire by his family in exchange for financial aide during a period of difficulty, and I find that an interesting potential hook to have the character explore at some future point. He's been sent to the Americas to keep an eye on events and ensure that any potential upheavals here don't upset the balance of power over there. In many ways, this is a character designed to hang around and interact with the more "upscale" clans, especially Toreador and Ventrue. And, for that purpose, it's not a bad one. This is a socially focused character, with Social Attributes as Primary (and his Appearance is a four, which is not common to see in male characters unless they are specifically conceived as the "pretty boy" type), and three dots each in Leadership and Etiquette. He's also got some dots spread around in Acting, Subterfuge and Linguistics. And he's not totally incompetent in a fight, having two dots of Brawl and one each of Melee and Firearms. Given his background, I'd have focused more on Melee with fencing and swordplay, but that's just me. He's also got three dots each in Politics and Finance. I kind of wish he had a few dots moved into Investigation, but only because I like the whole "upper class European armchair detective" genre. And, in perfect hindsight, this is one of those cases where I really wish the revised era Academics skill had been around earlier, as this is a character who could've really benefitted from having two or three dots in that skill to represent the sort of classic education where he could cite and quote various poets, philosophers, and scholars. But anyway, this isn't a bad character, one who's very much against the expected archetype, but making a lot of sense in the context of what the book presented about how the clan is different outside of North America. (With a little tweaking, I think this template would work really well to represent a certain type of Latin American or Middle Eastern Brujah. Or, say, a Japanese one if you wanted to ignore the whole KotE thing.)

      The Fake Rapper
      You had to be there at the time. This character is clearly meant to be a parody of early 90s pop hip hop star Vanilla Ice. He's from your cookie cutter "white bread" suburban background, and a conniver who figured out early on how to take advantage of other people's hard work by becoming a "manager" and "organizer". And when rap music became the next big thing in the late 80s and early 90s, he reinvented himself as a rebel from the mean streets. Only apparently some young Brujah actually bought into his act and embraced him. Now he's stuck playing the part, a masquerade within the Masquerade. And that's actually not a bad concept for a character, especially if you are in a game set in LA and the Anarch Free States. The character is a self-absorbed ass, but it's not like that's uncommon for a vampire, and he's fairly competent at pulling off his con. He's got three dots each in Acting, Finance, and Seduction, and two each in Intimidation, Leadership, Subterfuge, Bureaucracy, and Politics. That's actually a pretty good spread for a manager/face type. And again, this is the sort of character who could end up going down a number of paths, be it embracing the roll and turning into a fairly smart Anarch leader or "selling out" and abandoning his current persona to be one of the suits. So, in spite of this character mainly being here to make fun of an often mocked period celebrity, it's actually a fairly solid one, which honestly surprised me when I first reread it for this. (And as an aside, I think this concept and background would work really well as a Ventrue character as well, even if it doesn't come with the hook of having to stay in a pretend roll if you change the Clan.)

      The Rapper
      And, taking a total 180, we go from Vanilla Ice to a mash up of Ice T and Ice Cube. At its most basic, this character is what the above one pretends to be. He's actually from an inner city ghetto and been in a street gang. And like the above, his music about fighting the system and racist cops attracted the attention of some young Brujah who thought he'd be perfect for the clan. His main focus is on Streetwise (four dots), Music, and Politics (three dots each; I beginning to think there may be a joke here about all Brujah characters automatically coming with the Politics ability). Everything else is just scattered around at ones and twos. In a lot of ways, this character is almost the most archetypical or archetypical Brujah, even more so than the Anarch Terrorist. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with this character, I think he may in some ways be one of the weakest of the book. His motivation can best be described as "I grew up disfranchised, so down with The Man!" He's almost like a refinement of the Brujah character from the Players Guide in some ways. Which is a shame, because you'd think playing a character based on one of the guys from NWA or Body Count would be pretty awesome. As I said, this isn't a bad character, but I think it could be a little stronger in terms of examining what drives him and where he wants to go with his unlife.

      And that's all for this post. Next will be part three, with the last three templates, and some final thoughts. After that, Clanbook: Gangrel.
      Last edited by No One of Consequence; 05-13-2020, 02:30 PM.

      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


      • #4
        Clanbook: Brujah (part 3)

        The home stretch.

        The Rogue Cop/Vigilante
        This one may require a little bit of historical context for people under 30. The 1970s and early 80s were a rough period, especially in the inner cities. I remember an interview with one of the guys from The Ramones describing growing up in the Bronx as being like living in a war zone. And a lot of people felt like the system was more interested in coddling violent criminals than in protecting law abiding citizens. This is where films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish come from. And it's also where this character comes from. Rebels are usually Romantics, and Cynics usually Romantics who've had their hearts broken. Our character is someone who grew up idolizing police officers, only to become incredibly disillusioned with the system upon becoming one herself. We don't get a triggering incident, which is a shame, but I understand the limits imposed by how much word count one can put on a single page. At some point, the character snapped and went rogue, hunting down and executing criminals vigilante style. It's said that she's not a real cop anymore, which I think is unfortunate, as it would add multiple layers to the character and what sort of situations she might find herself in. Say, being one of the local Kindred's mole in the force, seeing to it that people look the other way at her vigilante activities in exchange for helping enforce the Masquerade. She's got all the abilities you'd expect from a maverick cop archetype. Three dots each in Dodge, Firearms, and Investigation; two each in Athletics, Brawl, Intimidation, Streetwise, Drive, Stealth, Security, and Law. However, her Humanity is 8, which feels too high for someone who has basically murdered multiple people. The write up also mentions the character having Area Knowledge, but the ability isn't listed on the character sheet. I suspect this is something that got changed at some point and never fixed in editing. There's a decent amount of material to work with here, as far as character development and future growth. Overall, not a bad character. A fairly strong "meat and potatoes" kind of archetype.

        The Skinhead
        I have mixed feelings about this character. One the one hand, you do get the feeling that some people at White Wolf were taking seriously the idea that Vampire was supposed to be for mature grown ups, or at least edgy and provocative. And a character like this plays very true to the line on the very first page of the second edition core book: "By becoming a monster, one learns what it is to be human." On the other hand, I wish this character was a little deeper. The write up describes him as a stereotypical Brujah with "a little more development." I think what they meant was "with a twist." This is a character who just sort of fell into a lifestyle of racial supremism and bigotry, growing up in a mostly white middle to upper class suburb only to fall in with the wrong crowd. And then just sort of ran with it. And is now your sort of bog standard racist stereotype. I find myself wishing more had been done with this character. If you've ever seen films like Romper Stomper and American History X (and if you haven't, I highly recommend both), there's a lot of strong storytelling potential with a character who just sort of fell into a bad lifestyle, likely as one of those people who just never fit in and was happy just to find a group that accepted them, and is now very ambivalent about their situation and want to get out. A character who is a Conformist playing at being a fanatic or visionary, for example. The character is really good at fighting: Brawl has four dots, Firearms and Melee three each, and Dodge with two. He's also got three dots in Intimidation and two in Leadership. And then a smattering of one each in things like Streetwise, Politics, Law, Linguistics (I'm presuming German, given how frequently Mein Kampf and its author get mentioned), Stealth and Subterfuge. Given how much the write up talks about him being in an intellectual leadership role for various racist groups, I'm a little surprised the character doesn't have higher rankings in Law and Politics. That or some of the secondary abilities from the Players Guide. And his Humanity is five. Yep, being a violent terrorist, serial vigilante, or manipulative con artist won't impact your Humanity, but being a racist will, I guess. I admit my reaction to some of the Humanity ratings are a result of the revised edition, which went to the trouble to actually clarify what each level meant (and at five, you're pretty much very creepy and off-putting to most people). But at the same time, I just find this kind of a cheap cop out. He's also the only one with a one in the Conscience virtue. Everyone else has two or more. Hell, the Rapper and the Rogue cop both have it at five. Like I said, this is an interesting idea for a concept, and I give credit for exploring it, at least in a shallow sort of way, but I wish more had been done with it.

        The Streetwalker
        I think when I first saw the Clanbook almost thirty years ago (when I rode my dinosaur to the cave that sold comics), this was the one that most caught my eye. Both for the obvious reasons - I was a teenaged boy - and also because I was curious just what sort of RPG involved playing prostitutes. This is another character that was abandoned at a young age, which I admit would be an interesting bonding point if you had her, the Anarch Terrorist and the Elder Representative in the same coterie. I'm not going to mention what age the write up says the character started regularly selling herself, because it's likely to severely bother some people, and even my reaction on rereading it was "that's something I could've done without this morning." She's one of those impulse embraces, picked on the spot when a Brujah attacked the other vampire who was planning to feed on her. The character is basically a user only out for herself, which is perfectly logical given her background. Her Nature is Bon Vivant, which I guess fits, but I could see a case being made for something like Survivor or Curmudgeon being a better choice. Her abilities leave a little to be desired. Streetwise is only two dots, which seems low for a character who has lived and worked on the streets all her life. Likewise, only one dot in Subterfuge, and only one dot in the Haggling secondary ability. I mean, if you are going to take the somewhat cringey step of giving a prostitute character the Haggling skill, at least make her good at it. She does have three dots in Seduction and two dots in Masquerade (the skill of passing for a living person). Also two each in Athletics, Acting, Brawl, Firearms, and Law. I can't complain a lot about these, but just personally, I think flipping her single dot of Melee with the two dots of firearms would've made more sense, as prostitutes are stereotyped as carrying bladed weapons for self defense (and her equipment includes a stiletto but no gun). Overall, I think I'd have preferred an ability focus on social manipulation and street survival. Her discipline spread has one dot in Celerity and two in Presence. I honestly would've given her Potence, as I feel it's the great equalizer between vampires who appear physically non-threatening and beefier mortals. The write up describes her has having "the conscience of a pit viper", but her Conscience virtue is three, making it better than the Elder Representative, the European Idealist, the Fake Rapper, and the Skinhead. I find that wonky, even with 2nd ed rules. This is another character that isn't bad, but that I wish more had been done with.

        And so, that's the ten of them. Overall, I think this was a pretty strong start for the Clanbooks. Three of these - The Computer Hacker, the Elder Representative, and the Fake Rapper - I like a lot, and five are very strong and solid. I wish the Rapper had a little more motivation, and that the Skinhead and Streetwalker were better. But none of them are terrible.
        Representation wise, we have only three women, which is a little disappointing, especially as one of them is the Streetwalker. However, one of the other ones is the Rogue Cop, and she looks really badass in an early 90s Cynthia Rothrock kind of way. The Streetwalker is obviously very sexualized, but this is offset somewhat by the fact that the Fake Rapper is also. The Rapper and it appears the Anarch Terrorist are the only ones who are non-white, though I think the Fake Rapper could be interpreted that way also. I think it would've been really interesting to see what the European Idealist would've looked like if presented as female.
        Back in the day, I used to make lists of additional templates I thought should've been in the books. Those notes are long gone, but I remember distinctly two of the Brujah ones being an Investigative Reporter and an Outlaw Biker.
        Finally, when the revised books started coming out, it became clear that each Clan had a sort of theme running through it, acting as a backbone of the Clan and its archetypes. For the Brujah, that theme was Passion. They are driven by it, to the point it consumes them with Frenzy, and draw power from it via their disciplines. And looking back at the original clanbook, I can see that all of these character templates have that theme in some fashion, be it vengeance, teaching, computers, self preservation, vigilante justice, and so on. So all in all, I have to call it a success.

        Next, Clanbook: Gangrel.

        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


        • #5
          Excellent series. Thank you for all your work. Keep them coming.

          You're right about the weirdness of secondary abilities. They were to be avoided by anyone who cared about efficient point builds. Sadly, secondary abilities are no longer with us. They died a quiet, dignified death, surrounded by those they loved: the Rift discipline, catdog Gangrel, and alien parasite souleaters.


          • #6
            An Interlude: The Toreador Dilettante Revisited

            Often in looking back at things in hindsight, it's easy to spot things that could have worked a lot better if done differently. And I think the original Toreador template in the Players Guide is one of those things. As I said in my overview of it, it started really strong out the gate, and then just sort of tripped and fell flat on its face. And I think I can fix that.

            The Toreador Artist

            "Who are you to judge my work? Someone as empty and mundane as you could never hope to understand the passions that drive true art."

            Prelude: Coming from an upper middle class background, your parents happily indulged your interest in art. You studied all the masters, learned all the techniques, and demonstrated more than enough technical skill. But your work lacked a certain spark of inspiration. Your work got shown, and various people whose opinions mattered said you were a hot new artist. But deep inside you felt that was a lie. And then he appeared at one of your showings. His bemused dismissal of your creations angered you at first, but then you admitted you agreed with him. The two of you struck up an increasingly passionate relationship, and soon he became your muse, inspiring your to levels of creativity and vision you didn't know you even possessed. Eventually, your work gained his praise, and he said your talent deserved to live on forever. A year later, he called you a disappointment, unworthy of the gift he'd given you, and left. Devastated and enraged, you turned your pain and anger into new and darker art. You will prove him wrong, if it's the last thing you do.
            Concept: You are the archetypical Toreador, completely absorbed in your art as you navigate the perilous world of the Kindred. Your skills focus on art and socializing, with more survival oriented abilities playing catch up. Most of your Backgrounds are holdovers from your breathing days. While you would prefer to spend your nights locked away in your studio working, you begrudgingly take part in the rituals of feeding and Elysium. Actually getting out and doing things does seem to make you a better artist, so you begrudge your coterie less than other Kindred.
            Roleplaying Tips: Art is everything. Present an air of cool detachment and hipness, but inside you are a roiling cauldron of hurt and resentment that sometimes slips out as bitter sarcasm and contempt. The one thing that does excite you in a positive way is anyone who actually understands the difference - both subjectively and objectively - between good art and bad, and why the difference is important.
            Equipment: Basement studio full of art supplies and works in progress, a decent car, a modest wardrobe with clothes for most social occasions, a 9mm pistol you've never even fired.

            Nature: Autist
            Demeanor: Curmudgeon
            Clan: Toreador
            Generation: 13th
            Haven: Basement Art Studio
            Concept: Artist

            Physical: Strength: 2 Dexterity: 3 Stamina: 2
            Social: Charisma: 3 Manipulation 3 Appearance 4
            Mental: Perception: 3 Intelligence: 3 Wits: 3

            Talents: Acting 1 Alertness 2 Dodge 1 Empathy 2 Intimidation 1 Streetwise 1 Subterfuge 2
            Skills: Etiquette: 3 Firearms: 1 Music 1
            Knowledge: Finance 1 Investigation 1 Language: 1 Politics 1 Science 2

            Disciplines: Auspex 1 Celerity 1 Presence 1
            Backgrounds: Contacts 1 Fame 1 Resources 3
            Virtues: Conscience: 3 Self-Control: 4 Courage: 3

            Other Traits: Artistic Expression: 4 Art History: 3

            Humanity: 7
            Willpower: 6

            Art Notes: Young 20-something, attractive male, probably white or Asian, with the sort of look and style you'd expect of a young, hip urban artist circa 1991.
            Last edited by No One of Consequence; 05-13-2020, 07:05 PM.

            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


            • #7
              Clanbook: Gangrel (part one)

              So it took several months after Brujah for Gangrel to hit the shelves. It came out in 1993, the second year of second edition. I have vague memories of my cousin actually finding a copy of it before I did. It's cover is not as striking as Brujah's, but does evoke the idea of some sort of urban hunter/predator. The book, and its templates, was written by Brad Freeman. The artwork for the templates is again by Josh Timbrook, or as he's now credited, Joshua Gabriel Timbrook.
              I'll also note that this was back when the Gangrel were heavily tied to the Roma, or The Rom as the book refers to them, and we are "graced" with five pages of what is effectively a Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas pastiche starring Gangrel Hunter S. Thompson pastiche Dr. Raoul King as he investigates The Rom in and around Toronto. Thankfully, we are not subjected to any stereotypical The Rom character templates in the back. Which I have to admit that in hindsight I find a little surprising.

              The Archon in Training
              This guy likes to fight. And when he's not doing that, he can be found fighting, or sometimes fighting. Yeah, this isn't a very deep one. Combat is all this character revolves around. Or rather, beating the crap out of people. His entire backstory - which includes a rather poor-taste-even-for-the-time joke about domestic violence - is all about finding new and interesting excuses to beat the crap out of people. His abilities primarily revolve around beating the crap out of people (Brawl and Melee at four dots each; Firearms at three dots, I guess for when he wants to mix it up and shoot someone instead). Physical attributes are primary, while Mental ones are tertiary. He only has a single dot in Intelligence. He's moderately sociable, but one is left with the impression that this is less of a person than it is an attack dog whose owner has given it an overly long leash. Which I guess is interesting in a way. But there's not a lot of meat here. I do find myself wondering what would happen if the character came across something it couldn't beat the crap out of and had to develop a modicum of self-reflection. I will note that he's got a Humanity of six and a Conscience of three, which makes a guy who's effectively the high school bully turned wife beater turned poster boy for police brutality turned Camarilla attack dog a better person than the Brujah Skinhead. Read whatever you want into that.

              The Babe in the Woods
              This is an odd duck. So, the Gangrel are presented as having this thing where they embrace someone and then just leave them to fend for themselves. This is such a character, taken almost to ludicrous levels. She is a plain run of the mill ordinary everywoman college student, with absolutely nothing about her that stands out, save perhaps for an interest in storytelling. Seriously, it flat out says that nothing about her stands out. Her equipment is "typical pocket items or none whatsoever." Even though she's apparently still going to college and close to her family. The character does not even know or understand that she's a vampire, and it even suggests giving her a Derangement (I presume Amnesia) so that she doesn't even remember when she feeds. This would, I think, make an interesting Caitiff concept, but as a Gangrel being showcased in their clanbook, I'm not a big fan of it. I'm honestly not sure how you're supposed to integrate such a character into a coterie. The write up suggests using her as a mirror to show others how monstrous they are as vampires, and while that's great for an NPC, I don't think it works very well as a PC. Her abilities are completely unremarkable. Mostly a bunch of ones scattered across the character sheet, with three dots in Storytelling being the only major stand out. She also has two dots each in History, Science, Animal Ken (I suspect entirely for the Animalism), and Drive. One of those single dots is in Firearms. I'm not exactly sure why. There is an ember of a good character concept here: The idea of a normal nice and fairly sheltered innocent embraced into a clan of rugged individualists and survivors, having to make her way with the wits and courage she never knew she had, almost like an old fairy tale heroine, would be really cool, in my opinion. But this takes the "innocent waif" knob and turns it up to 11, drowning out anything interesting one might do with the character.

              The Biologist
              Funnily enough, I think this is almost what the Gangrel Loner in the Players Guide should have been. A quiet loner type totally fascinated with the mysteries and wonders of nature and wildlife, and eager to study them every chance he gets. And because this is a Mentally focused character, which goes a bit against the initial stereotype, I find myself liking it. Science is his primary focus, with four dots, as well as three dots each in Medicine and Investigation, both of which make sense for the character as described. He rounds this out with two dots each in Firearms, Animal Ken, Drive, Repair, Survival, Occult, Linguistics, and Alertness, making for a pretty well rounded character. He's got an Intelligence of five, much like the third entry in Brujah, the Computer Hacker, and I can't help but think that the two of them would make interesting coterie mates. His Conscience is two, which seems a little weird when put next to the Archon in Training above. But other than that, there's nothing wrong with this character. He's a really solid, interesting and slightly unconventional concept with a well focused but diverse set of stats. The best of the bunch so far.

              The Bold Urban Commando
              Not all Anarchs are Brujah, and back in the early days, it was sort of expected that games would usually be Anarchs vs Camarilla (and probably the PCs as Anarchs). And here we have a hard core Marxist radical, complete with suburban background - though spiced up with some indications of domestic violence and running away from home as a teen - embraced after getting beat down during a counter protest against a bunch of skinheads lead by a Brujah ghoul (I can't help but wonder if this is a call back to the earlier template). Now she's a hard core Anarch out to over throw the elders. Her equipment list almost makes her sound like a relic left over from the early '70s, with a beat up VW bug, an Abbie Hoffman paperback, Molotov cocktails, and a .38 revolver. I can't help but wonder if that bug has an 8-track player in it. Ability wise, she's pretty solid, with three each in Brawl and Dodge, and two each in Intimidation, Firearms, Melee, Security, Stealth, and Politics. I'm a little surprised her Streetwise is only at a single dot. This isn't a bad character. The character art certainly has a lot of personality to it. I could easily see this character in the same coterie as the Anarch Terrorist or some of the other Brujah characters. The compare and contrast between the two character's early lives might make for some interesting role playing hooks.

              That's all for now. Next will be part two of Gangrel.

              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


              • #8
                This is awesome friend and I wish I'd started reading it earlier. Thank you for doing this.

                Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.


                • #9
                  Clanbook: Gangrel (part two)

                  And so, picking up where we left off.

                  The Eco-Guerrilla
                  So this is one of those early '90s archetypes, the environmental activist who prefers to take direct and often destructive action against the usual list of ecological despoilers. It's an idea I think fits fairly well with the Gangrel. I mentioned aspects of the Bold Urban Commando sounding a little like a throwback to the '70s (which admittedly was a thing in the '90s), and this one does also in some ways. It's the small town boy who went off to a war he didn't want any part of, only to come back and find that - shock - the rivers and woods he grew up around as a boy have been infected by modern development. It took me a reread to realize that the war it's referring to is probably the Gulf War and not Vietnam, because a lot if this feels like it's referring to the '70s. And so the character went down the environmentalist route, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the legal methods and getting more and more involved with terrorism. Until finally he gets embraced. And continues doing the same. At its heart, this is not a bad character. I really like the idea of a small town boy (or girl, it would've worked that way too, I think) who went off to war, and is desperately trying to hold on to this idealized image of the outdoors they experienced as a child as a way of recovering lost innocence, but really only falling deeper into a life of violent destruction, and I really wish more had been done with that angle. But as it, the character is a little one dimensional. The character's Appearance is a one, which really doesn't match up with anything in the write up, and especially not with the artwork. (I mentioned that Timbrook also did a lot of early Werewolf art, and this image would've been right at home in that line; The guy looks like your archetypical ruggedly handsome West Coast eco-grunge guy and if asked to rate his appearance, I'd have given him at least a two if not a three out of five.) His abilities are mostly a scattering of ones and twos, with the only exception being a three in Firearms. Given that he doesn't have a gun listed among his equipment, I think at least one or two of those dots could've been better spent elsewhere. Like on Survival, which he only has at one dot, and I find that too low for this concept. I also thing that single dot he has in Occult would've gone better toward Law, which is zero, given that you think he'd have some grasp of environmental and property laws from his earlier efforts to use the system. (He does have one dot in Bureaucracy.) His Virtues are all at four, and his Humanity at eight, which feels maybe one level too high. Overall, this isn't a bad template, and is clearly meant to be a hook for a segment of White Wolf's targeted fan base (including Werewolf fans who might be checking out Vampire), but I think it could've benefited from some fine tuning.

                  The Explorer
                  It's Indiana Jones. It even has "I'm making this up as I go along" as the character quote. One bit of weirdness though is that the write up is specifically male, and an old one at that, having fought Nazi's in WW2 and not being embraced until really too old to keep going out in the field. However, the artwork is that of a young female. (Also odd is this huge mark across the face, which I honestly can't tell if it's meant to be massive scar that runs in a nonsensical pattern or just a stray pen mark that was never cleaned up.) I will note that this is at least three years before Tomb Raider debuted in 1996. The character's abilities are mostly ones and twos, with three each in Firearms and Survival. Notably missing for a character that is an archeologist and apparently a teacher, they have almost no abilities to reflect this. Science is at a single dot, as is Occult, and that's it. I've made my thoughts on Secondary Abilities clear, but this is only of those cases where I could see spending a few dots on Archeology (or Anthropology or History) would have been completely warranted. Also, a dot in Drive wouldn't have been out of place. This is one of those unfortunate cases where you take a fictional character who would be a perfect fit for a group and just try to import it whole rather than taking the core idea of that character and making it uniquely your own in the world of the game. To borrow an example from anime, in My Hero Academia, the character of All Might is very clearly meant to be a Superman pastiche, but while building off that core idea of "the greatest hero who inspires every other hero", every other aspect of the character goes in their own directions that drive the world and plot in ways that Superman wouldn't. And I think that's the trick when doing a character template like this. It should be clear what the inspiration is, but still manage to stand on its own as a cool character you want to play. I really want to like this template, but I can't. This is not to say that I dislike it, but that I'm disappointed and wish it was better.

                  The Great White Hunter
                  I think this may actually be my favorite template in the book (perhaps rivaled only by the Biologist). I have long had a habit of trying to find ways to make characters that seem to play against type but are at their heart perfectly in tune with the archetype of whatever group they're from. And this is one of those type of characters. He is your stereotypical upper class British person (no mention if he's a noble or not, but it feels like it would fit) who became a big game hunter out of a need to find something to do with his life. And he became really good at it. Eventually he went looking for a legendary beast in the great white north only to find it was his sire. Now he's a staunch and perfectly respectable member of the Camarilla who hunts their enemies. Everything you'd expect from a Gangrel - wilderness oriented, a deadly hunter - who just happens to be a throwback to a hundred years ago when that sort of description applied to upper class elites as much as rugged mountain men and so-called savages. His stats are pretty solid. I slightly question his having five dots in Dexterity, but I realize that's to take advantage of the rules for firearms combat. He has five dots in Firearms as well. He's also got three dots each in Alertness, Animal Ken, Stealth, and Survival, and two dots in Etiquette and Language. Resources are four, and he has a Retainer (the only one in the book to do so). I do question his having only a two in Conscience and six in Humanity, compared to other characters. But other than that, he's definitely my favorite.

                  That's all for now. Next, the final three, and closing thoughts. Then the Malkavians.
                  Last edited by No One of Consequence; 05-14-2020, 11:27 AM.

                  What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                  Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                  • #10
                    Clanbook: Gangrel (part three)

                    And the final three.

                    The Lupine Impersonator
                    Oh dear. So, when Werewolf initially came out, it was inevitable that people would want crossovers and mixed PC groups with Vampire. And the Gangrel, being what they were, seemed like a natural outlet for that impulse. The clanbook devoted three pages to talking about the ins and outs - mechanics wise at least - of Gangrel interacting with Lupines, including a merit that lets them smell like they are still alive. Oddly, this character doesn't have that merit. So, what we have is a woman from "the old country" (I suspect this may in some ways also be meant as the The Rom character I was dreading earlier) who was fascinated by the stories of werewolves and decided to run off and find them. Instead, she ended up eventually meeting a Gangrel who embraced her, making it largely impossible for her to ever "truly" be what she wanted. So she still tries her best, constantly in fear of the truth being discovered. This isn't a terrible idea for a character template, and has the potential for some nice tragic role-play, but I don't think it's a great Vampire character. It's really meant more as part of a Werewolf game than a Vampire one, in my opinion. As far as stats go, it isn't too bad. I think her Physical attributes should be a 3/3/4 spread instead of the 2/4/4 one used. Brawl at four dots (her single highest attribute) feels too high. Survival, Dodge, and Animal Ken are all three dots. Subterfuge and Acting are both at two, and I fell that one or both could benefit from being a little higher. She has the secondary ability of Lupine Lore at two dots. I give credit for having it as a reasonable level and not at, say, four dots. (This is actually one of only three characters with secondary abilities; It's interesting to see how quickly these seemed to start to fall by the wayside.) Her Humanity is a nine, and I think this is really only because of the decision that Werewolf's Sense Wyrm gift only detected vampires with a Humanity lower than seven. So, all in all, it's OK, but not one that sets me on fire.

                    The Stunt Man
                    For a character clearly built entirely around one of the clan's signature disciplines - Fortitude - this isn't a bad one. A life long daredevil, with some military experience, turned Hollywood stunt man (in the days before CGI when everything was still practical effects) only to botch a major stunt and get embraced by a conveniently nearby Gangrel who found him amusing. There's not a lot of depth here, but this character feels like he'd be more fun to play than, say, the Archon in Training, who is similarly shallow and focused on a single thing. I admit some of this may be influenced by the art work, with a guy who has that old school Hollywood feel and a certain amount of devil may care charm. Under attributes, he's got a Stamina of five dots, obviously. He only has a Stregth of two, though, which feels a little low. His Intelligence is one dot, which I think is a little disparaging to the profession he represents. Athletics are at four dots, with Brawl, Dodge, and Drive at three each. He's also got two dots in Finance, which seems out of place on some level. Naturally, he has four dots in Fortitude. This is one of those characters who is very good at what they do, but a little short in everything else. But it's not a bad concept, and as I said, feels like he'd be fun to play.

                    The Survivalist
                    This is another of those '80s era stereotypes, and one that would eventually carry over into the '90s with the development of what late journalist Michael Kelly would dub "fusion paranoia." (I'd link to the article, but it's behind the New Yorker's paywall.) Our character is convinced that The End of the World is nigh (and in the WoD, that's not being paranoid) and so had created the full set up of underground survival bunker, complete with supplies, guns, etc. Then one day he found a vampire in his bunker. (It's not said, but I presume it was the use of Protean to enter through to air intakes as mist.) Said vampire tells him about the Secret Vampire Overlords leading humanity to its doom, embraced him, and left. Now he's trying to figure out how to update his survival plans now that he needs other people to feed on. From a stat perspective, he's OK. A decent spread of ones and twos in abilities, plus four dots in Firearms. His mental attributes are primary. The main downside is that there's just not really any reason given for this character to come out of his hole and interact with other vampires on a regular basis, let alone join a coterie. I don't think that's an insurmountable problem, but will require some thinking on the parts of the player and the storyteller. So, one of those "not bad, but could be a lot better with a few tweaks" entries.

                    And so that's the Gangrel. Overall, I think this collection was solid, but perhaps not as good as the Brujah. The two stand outs, to me at least, are the Biologist and the Great White Hunter, with the Stuntman getting honorable mention. The Bold Urban Commando is also a solid one. Unfortunately, I think the remaining six are just a little under par and would have benefited from some minor refinements (or perhaps more so with the Archon in Training and the Babe in the Woods).
                    In terms of representation, we have four females and six males. However, one of those, the Explorer, is written as a male character and has a female image. None of them are sexualized, save kinda-sorta the Stuntman. And all of them are white. Except maybe the Bold Urban Commando, who may be Asian. At least none of them are The Rom, because I know if any of them were, they would've have been cringe inducing even by the standards of 20 years ago.
                    I remember my thoughts about additional templates from way back when including that of a Private Detective, just because I thought that sort of tough streetwise survivor type would've worked really well for the clan, especially in a modern film noir type game.
                    Regarding an overarching clan theme, I think it's Survival. And I think the best templates here are the ones that most play on that. The Biologist survives by exploring and analyzing the world around him. The Bold Urban Commando and Eco-Guerrilla through political activism and crusades. The Great White Hunter and Explorer by finding a purpose in life and whole heartedly embracing it. The Stuntman just from being the toughest SOB around. The weaker ones are the ones where this seems muddled. The Archon in Training, for example, fights not to survive but for the fun of beating the hell out of people. I think that would actually play better with the Brujah and their theme of passion, while a person who reluctantly became great at beating the hell out of people because he had to in order to survive would make a better Gangrel.

                    Next, Clanbook: Malkavian.

                    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                    • #11
                      Clanbook: Malkavian (a prelude)

                      I feel that I should probably preface talking about the Malkavians with a bit about a pair of issues. One is the treatment of mental illness in roleplaying games. Mental illness is one of those things that, deep down, is very uncomfortable for a lot of people to think about. It is almost literally being betrayed by your own mind. And that is scary. So the natural human tendency is - when not trying to intellectualize and quantify it - to dismiss it, often with dark humor. The outward manifestations of some mental illnesses can be extremely absurd to someone who is fortunate enough to be rational. Be it the coping mechanisms employed to self-sooth OCD or anxiety, the unusual world views of schizophrenia, or the violent outbursts caused by other disorders, these behaviors will often end up being the basis for parody in order to deflect how disturbing they can be. "Crazy" is easier to deal with if it becomes "Wacky".
                      Unfortunately, a lot of RPGs back in the 80s and 90s tended to conflate the two. White Wolf, to their credit, tried to skew toward Derangements as a source of horror in the Vampire core books, but unfortunately, the Malkavians, as the "Kook" clan, tended to get presented as wacky. This is, quite frankly, not helped much by the original Clanbook. While Tim Bradstreet's cover image is certainly striking and somewhat disturbing, the same can not be said for a lot of the other art in the book. The back cover of each of the Clanbooks had a small cropped image of part of a white-skinned vampire's face, serving as kind of a snap shot of the clan's image. On the back of Malkavian is a close up of a nose with a finger stuck up it. Even if a drop of blood is coming out of the nose, that's not a promising start. The interior art includes a large amount of efforts to mimic childish crayon scribbles, including what I can only presume is meant to be a deformed Jesus having a bowel movement. Combined with a number of other elements, including various bad puns, and pages printed upside down or backwards, this results in a book that is more "wacky" insanity than horror insanity.
                      And all of this together is part of what I think led to what are commonly called "Fishmalks". Basically, these are - usually Malkavian - characters who use their insanity as an excuse to disrupt the game and generally be a pain to all of the other players. I consider this to be a violation of the gamer social contract; Everyone is there to have fun, and if you are deliberately engaged in behavior that is meant to keep other people from enjoying the game, then you are violating that contract.
                      So those are two things that are going to be very much on my mind as I go back and look at the original Malkavian Clanbook's premade templates. Is the way they present their insanity something that fits into what's supposed to be a Gothic Punk setting about Personal Horror? (IE, is this meant to be scary/disturbing, or goofy/wacky?) And is this the sort of character that is likely to end up being a disruptive pest to everyone else in the game?

                      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                      • #12
                        Clanbook: Malkavian (part one)

                        So, this book came out in 1993, fairly quickly after Gangrel. The book was written by Daniel Greenberg, who was, IIRC, the brother of at the time Vampire Developer Andrew Greenberg. And the art is once again by Josh Timbrook. Which is a good thing, because if they'd all been the crayon style drawings, I probably would've stopped doing this thread for a while. Two things of note. First is that none of the characters say with their Derangement actually is. A few are easy to guess, but others not so much. Second is that, if you are only familiar with the clan from their presentation in Revised edition and later, this predates the introduction of the Dementation discipline, so they all have Dominate.

                        The Mesmeric Manipulator
                        Right off the bat, we get a really strong one. This is the daughter and assistant of a Victorian Era spiritualist who crossed a rival who turned out to be a Malkavian. She became her sire's assistant for several decades, but now that he's disappeared, she's on her own. And I like this character a lot. The character image is very striking, and possibly my favorite in the entire book. (Really, any time I've thought of this book over the past 25+ years, this has been the first image to come to mind.) It's also a really good concept that plays well with the clan's signature disciplines as well as various concepts of charismatic "madmen" and mesmerists. Her stats are, perhaps, a little wonky. Subterfuge is only one dot, though Acting is at two and Empathy at three. Weirdly, she has Firearms at two dots, so is more adapt at shooting people than tricking them. After a near absence of them in Gangrel, we get a return of secondary abilities. She has Seduction, Ventriloquism, and Slight of Hand, but only at one dot for the first two and two dots for the last one. I think I've come to the conclusion that if one is going to spend points in a secondary ability, one should only do so if you're willing to get it at three dots or higher. Given her modus operandi, I think her Occult should be higher than two, and Finance higher than one. Also standing out is her Willpower of only four. After two entire books of characters with WP of 6+, this is almost shocking. As I said, we don't get a Derangement listed, and it's hard to pick one that fits. I could see Delusions of Grandeur or possibly believing her dead father still talks to her as being very fitting. Overall, I think this is a really good idea that just needs a little statistical tweaking.

                        The Freak
                        I'm not really sure where to begin with this one. Born deformed, abandoned at birth, shunted from foster home to foster home before ending up homeless on the streets and turned into a vampire. Then he joined a traveling freak show (and lived happily ever after ....). He's got a lot of piercings and performs assorted disturbing acts while grinning like a happy idiot. His quote is "Blea!" The character image is of a balding hunchback holding a bloody axe. Charisma and Appearance are both at one, with Manipulation at four. Stamina is at five. His abilities are mostly ones and twos, save a three in Brawl, including one dot each in the secondary abilities of Carousing (?), Scrounging, and Pickpocket. His Willpower is four, seeming to continue a trend. He also has three dots in Obfuscate, which only reinforces my knee jerk reaction of "what is this stereotypical Nosferatu doing in my Malkavian book?" This is the first character in this series that I honestly do not like. In fact, I may actually actively hate this character. As potentially tragic as this character could be, he quite frankly exists for no other reason than engage in antisocial behavior and disruptive antics. He has no reason to interact with wider vampire society, and little to no motivation to do much of anything outside his existence in the freak show. It's just bad on so many levels.

                        The Conspiracy Theorist
                        Another classic '90s archetype. It'd be amusing to see this character and the Gangrel Survivalist in the same coterie. This is a normal run of the mill middle class American kid, until her parents died in a car accident when she was in college. And this caused a mental breakdown. She believed the accident was her fault, and that some malevolent force wanted to punish her for getting too close to their secrets. She sees patterns that (probably?) aren't there, making connections between people and events that (probably?) don't exist, all in service to building up this massive conspiracy that only she can see but can't figure out in order to expose them. Her sire was one of the doctors at the hospital she was sent to, and wanted her to continue investigating and explaining this conspiracy for him. Then he was killed (obviously by Them). Now she's on the loose, still trying to uncover the secrets of Them, and has apparently acquired a ridiculous amount of firepower in the process. (Seriously, her equipment includes a submachine gun, grenades, and tear gas and she has three dots each in Firearms and Melee.) She has five dots in Perception and four dots in Intelligence, but only one dot in Wits. She's also got four dots in Computer. And for some reason has a few dots in the secondary abilities of Hypnotism and Camouflage. I really like this character. Aside from some stat quibbles, it's a really strong character with an interesting hook, and would work really well with any sort of investigative oriented or Anarch focused coterie. I especially like the fact that her initial mental break is something that conforms to the way these things will often happen in real life, with a major traumatic event stressing the mind past its breaking point and the resulting mental illness being an effort to cope with that event. Overall, I'd have to put this in my top ten of all the ones so far.

                        The Waking Dreamer
                        This is an odd one, and I recall being confused by it even back in 1993. I'm not entirely sure I'm less confused now. The character is a waif from a very sheltered and wealthy upbringing, whose increasing anxiety and lack of self-confidence caused her to retreat more and more into her dreams, to the point of near narcoleptic catatonia. Exactly why this happened isn't really explained, but from my layman's knowledge of psychology, it's possibly a manifestation of schizophrenia or (more depressing) PTSD from possible abuse. Either one would be interesting to explore, I think. (Also, while this is two years before the first edition of Changeling, it's entirely possible she could be a changeling trying to undergo their awakening into their true form, only for it to be suppressed - and finally quashed - by attempts at psychiatric treatment.) Eventually, her parents brought her to a Malkavian doctor, who used probably a mix of Auspex and Dominate to forcefully rip her out of her dream world (and possibly keep her from dreaming anymore when she slept). And then a few years later came back, undid his fix and embraced her to be a channel into the dream world. And when he was done with whatever he was doing, he left her on her own. Now she's kind of a perpetual sleepwalker stuck in a twilight world between two realities. She has the Child demeanor, mainly, I suspect, as a way to try to get other people to take care of her and keep her from having to face the scary real world. Her biggest abilities are Empathy and Stealth at four dots each, and Animal Ken, Dodge, and Melee at three each. The first two I can easily get behind; the Melee not so much. She's got Auspex at four dots. I think having at least one dot in Obfuscate would've been extremely fitting. Curiously, given the Changeling thing I mentioned above, she's got a dot in Faerie Lore. Her Humanity is eight, which is one of the first time's I've thought that actually felt appropriate. Overall, this is a strange character, but I don't dislike it. She's got a some interesting aspects to play around with, though I'd likely have to really trust a player before agreeing to let them play this character in a game. If the Babe in the Woods character from Gangrel had had more of a dark fairy tale feel to it, I think these two would've made an interesting pairing.

                        That concludes part one. Next will be part two of Malkavian.
                        Last edited by No One of Consequence; 05-15-2020, 08:55 AM.

                        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                        • #13

                          I actually appreciated the Streetwalker character because I think it's a very easy way to get Blood and feeding. Mind you, you're going to deal with a lot of sleazebags but, as you say, Potence is something that can very much help with things. Also, that is going to be useful when you want to feed more deeply on assholes.

                          I think the Skinhead character was a poor choice but understandable. White Supremacist Brujah are almost certainly a thing but I think they'd be definitely better regulated to the role of villains or NPCs. The Swords of Heimdall in Werewolf ended up having to be killed off in-universe because RL white supremacists were using them to justify their beliefs in-game and at events.

                          I love the Fake Rapper character as well, especially since Victor from LA by Night is based on Suge Knight (albeit far less bloodthirsty oddly enough).
                          But as you say, very stereotypical characters. Not necessarily bad but very common ideas.


                          A big fan of your description of the Bold Urban Commando and agree that player characters were expected to be Anarchs against the Man.

                          The Explorer is a bit fun and my headcanon is the fact that they're a transman from the 1940s.

                          I actually played the Great White Hunter in a game. My ST and I clashed about what to do with him but he is an immensely entertaining archetype to do. Also because he's someone who doesn't really "fit" in with the upper class of yesterday, let alone today, and is eager to Embrace the Beast to be something different.

                          Lupine Impersonator makes no damn sense is nonfunctional even if it were possible because you'd be hanging with WEREWOLVES rather than a coterie. However, I think you could easily rework it as a Kinfolk who is now a vampire and trying to apply their culture to a bunch of Wyrmspawn.

                          Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                            I actually appreciated the Streetwalker character because I think it's a very easy way to get Blood and feeding. Mind you, you're going to deal with a lot of sleazebags but, as you say, Potence is something that can very much help with things. Also, that is going to be useful when you want to feed more deeply on assholes.
                            I think an interesting angle with the Streetwalker would've been if she'd decided to use her newfound powers, especially Potence and Presence, to start taking on more of a "managerial" role, taking other streetwalkers under her "protection" and using them as her own Herd (as well as a source for Retainers and Resources) and also renting them out to other vampires for feeding. Basically the exploited becoming the exploiter motivated by her own passion for self-interest, survival, and sense of power.

                            I think the Skinhead character was a poor choice but understandable. White Supremacist Brujah are almost certainly a thing but I think they'd be definitely better regulated to the role of villains or NPCs. The Swords of Heimdall in Werewolf ended up having to be killed off in-universe because RL white supremacists were using them to justify their beliefs in-game and at events.
                            This sort of weird focus on white racism, especially the Neo-National Socialist ilk, thankfully seemed to have died out at White Wolf around 1993 or 1994, as we never got anything about it in early Mage or Wraith stuff. My own thoughts on the Sword of Heimdall - and I rather wish most of the Fenrir camps had different names - is that they were originally a Camp devoted to the tribe's Kinfolk and their protection, guidance, and nurturing, focused heavily on encouraging marriages and large families, respect for mates and offspring, tight household and community bonds, and pride in one's heritage combined with responsibility for future generations. And at some point in the 19th century, it went off the rails. Which is a shame, because I think the above is a fun idea that both ties in to the tribe's concept while also somewhat subverting expectations.
                            As for the Skinhead template, as I mentioned, it's a general concept that has a lot of potential for good Storytelling and character growth (the two movies I cite being good examples), but instead it's just kind of there as "this is a bad person, and also he is a bad person." I think one of the other things that annoys me about that template is that, had the exact same character with the same motivations and back story been race-flipped and done as a Black Panther or member of the Nation of Islam, he'd have been presented in an almost heroic light, complete with a high Conscience and Humanity simply because the writer and target audience would've found him more sympathetic. But I find racial supremism and separatism to be morally repugnant and irritating no matter who is doing it.

                            Lupine Impersonator makes no damn sense is nonfunctional even if it were possible because you'd be hanging with WEREWOLVES rather than a coterie. However, I think you could easily rework it as a Kinfolk who is now a vampire and trying to apply their culture to a bunch of Wyrmspawn.
                            I think from a 1st ed Werewolf/very early 2nd ed Vampire perspective, the character probably works OK as an example of what to do if you want to have a vampire in your werewolf pack. But I'm not sure she works all that great in a Vampire game, so having it as one of the example characters in a Vampire book is, to me at least, a minor strike against it. But in fairness, unless you had a book entirely about doing Vampire/Werewolf crossovers (and I really think there should've been) that included a bunch of templates like Lupine Impersonator, Interspecies Diplomat, Ghouled/Embraced Kinfolk, and Ronin Hound, there's really no other place to put it.

                            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                            • #15
                              My oh my, someone also like to use templates in his games 🙂. But you forgot about pregens from "Alien hunger" and IMHO you should also write a word or two about pregens from V:tM 2nd. edition core rulebook and Players Guide. I know these are only stats and concepts but I think your interpretation of them could be interesting.

                              Warrior of the Rainbow
                              Saint among the sinners
                              Pure among the dirt
                              Loser among winners