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Design: (1e) Virtue & Vice vs. (2e) Mask & Dirge

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  • Design: (1e) Virtue & Vice vs. (2e) Mask & Dirge

    From a game design standpoint, can someone walk me through the decision to switch over from the Virtue/Vice system in VTR 1e to the Mask & Dirge system in 2e?

    (0) EDITED TO ADD: I do not want to discuss the place of Christian theology in Vampire: the Requiem 1e or pop culture at large. You're welcome to whatever beliefs you may have, but I would prefer them to be aired in someone else's thread rather than here.

    (1) In what way did Virtue & Vice fail to meet the themes of VTR, so that Mask & Dirge were better suited?

    (2) What sub-systems are affected by Mask & Dirge? By this I mean something like: in VTR 1e, Virtue and Vice keyed into a couple of mechanics beyond simply replenishing Willpower. For example, the curse of the Daeva in 1e was that they'd lose 2 Willpower by ignoring their Vice--this meant that Daeva would, in general, act very strongly in accordance with their personal preferred sin. Also, Virtue and Vice also provided situational modifiers when trying to resist frenzy. Indirectly, Virtue and Vice also led the players to form moral judgments about the characters (including their own). I'd suspect that over play, Virtue and Vice would also cause you to engage in actions that directly affected 1e's Humanity score.

    (3) At a quick glance, it seems like this stuff ties back to changes in how Humanity is conceived in 1e vs. 2e. Would it be correct to say that in 1e, Humanity is a question of, "Can I be a good human?" whereas in 2e it becomes, "Am I even human at all?"
    Last edited by James_Nostack; 05-18-2019, 02:37 PM.

  • #2
    Although the concept of seven Virtues and seven Vices existed in philosophical and religious tenets prior to and independant of Christianity, they are generally considered a Christian concept. Pop culture currently has little tolerance for Christianity outside of targets to revile and ridicule.
    Mask and Dirge more closely represents the Nature and Demeanor feature from Vampire the Masquerade in that you are mechanically rewarded for playing a character personality rather than acting out good or evil behavior as is the case with Virtue and Vice.
    The mechanics are both supposed to replenish willpower. Acting on a Virtue rewarded you with more willpower but the criteria to meet it more stringent. Acting on a Vice was a bit easier but less willpower.
    Mask and Dirge also replenish willpower but the prerequisites are not as demanding. Willpower does not gradually return either so it forces players to act according to typecast if they want willpower.
    Willpower and by extension Mask and Dirge tie into Theban Sorcery use, Breaking Point checks, certain Conditions and other situational modifiers where players may be tempted or coerced into certain behaviors. If they align with or threaten a Mask or Dirge, bonuses or penalties apply.
    I always considered Humanity as a gauge to indicate how well or how poorly a kindred can interact with humans. Now it's more emphasized on how well they can fool others into believing they aren't a monster with the ability to interact with humans without resorting to supernatural compulsions becoming collateral damage as their ability to do so slips.
    Last edited by tsusasi; 05-18-2019, 12:02 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by James_Nostack View Post
      From a game design standpoint, can someone walk me through the decision to switch over from the Virtue/Vice system in VTR 1e to the Mask & Dirge system in 2e?
      Well, V/V wasn't a vampire thing, it was a system-wide mechanic. CofD put in a generalised version of the V/V system which I'd guess is a recognition of how the system was actually being used. The trouble with the 7 sins/virtues is that whilst they're thematically cool they're actually kinda vague. You see this if you read a lot of the pre-generated characters, it's not uncommon for the writer to give a little explanation of the way this particular characters vice/virtue actually expresses itself.

      From there, it's not difficult to think that in the case of vampire, Mask/dirge might be more interesting as a duality to explore.


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      • #4
        Honestly, I think Mask and Dirge were a mistake. They're just the old Nature/Demeanor system from Masquerade, but with new names applied.

        Virtues and Vices (once you unbind them from the deadly sins and all that, which is what CofD core did), to me, are much more interesting: they give you character motivations rather than a cardboard cutout of how your character should act. Even if they both represent the same character, "my Virtue is a twisted form of Justice, which I define myself around and will sacrifice any other ideal for" is (to me) a lot more interesting to roleplay than "I act like the archetypal Authoritarian from the book".

        One homebrew option I've seen people use is "this is the ideal that drives my Humanity" versus "this is the ideal that drives my Beast", which is cool and I'd like to see explored further, but I've never actually played with that one. It's somewhat similar to Forsaken 2e's Blood/Bone system, but keyed to Vampire's downward slide rather than Werewolf's attempt to balance the two. (They'd also need cool names…)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by James_Nostack View Post
          (1) In what way did Virtue & Vice fail to meet the themes of VTR, so that Mask & Dirge were better suited?
          First, remember that Virtue and Vice changed in 2e first, so their ability to hold the same place in VtR 2e was already called into question by the change to the baseline rules.

          Then, it's less of a failing than Mask and Dirge doing better. That is, keeping Virtue and Vice probably would have worked fine with maybe some tweaks, but Mask and Dirge build on what's there for something that adds more to the themes of VtR than just sticking with Virtue and Vice would have.

          (2) What sub-systems are affected by Mask & Dirge?
          Regaining Willpower and the relation to Humanity are still the places where these really matters. Mask and Dirge are also important to the dice-less feeding scene option.

          It is important to note that one of the reasons Mask and Dirge work slightly differently than Virtue and Vice is that vampires don't regain Willpower as easily as living creatures. Namely not Willpower for rest (even daysleep). Vampires can't just take a week off to relax and recharge (also they're immortal undead creatures for whom a week is a largely meaningless amount of time for most of their existence). They have to go out and engage, with their Anchors (including their Touchstones to this) being how they get that Willpower back actively.

          (3) At a quick glance, it seems like this stuff ties back to changes in how Humanity is conceived in 1e vs. 2e. Would it be correct to say that in 1e, Humanity is a question of, "Can I be a good human?" whereas in 2e it becomes, "Am I even human at all?"
          The changes to Humanity clearly mattered, but weren't the only contributing factor.

          And yes, that is a very fair assessment of the change in focus of the Humanity systems.

          Originally posted by tsusasi View Post
          Although the concept of seven Virtues and seven Vices existed in philosophical and religious tenets prior to and independant of Christianity, they are generally considered a Christian concept. Pop culture currently has little tolerance for Christianity outside of targets to revile and ridicule.
          Or, rather, there's no reason for the CofD to focus specifically on something so specific regardless of its cultural origins. Sticking to the five Buddhist Poisons would be dropped for the same reasons (though they probably were skipped because Buddhism formulates an 8 vs 5 rather than an even 7 vs 7 list).

          The value of letting people define something so core to how the game models their character's personalities themselves to get something that feels right is greater than the thematic value of directly opposed Virtues and Vices.

          That's also why Morality was dropped for Integrity.

          It's easier to personal stories when what's at risk is actually personal to the characters.

          Also please spare the forum another "woe is Christianity the media is so mean to us," thing. The last time it happened it went really poorly, because it's actually a load of crap; esp. when it comes to failing to recognize the difference between cultural criticism of religious institutions for becoming too dogmatic and losing touch with promoting spiritual well being vs. attacks on the tenets of the faith itself.

          Mask and Dirge more closely represents the Nature and Demeanor feature from Vampire the Masquerade in that you are mechanically rewarded for playing a character personality rather than acting out good or evil behavior as is the case with Virtue and Vice.
          They're all about playing a character personality.

          Virtues and Vices were never defined as "good" vs. "evil" in this sense, but rather constructive vs. counterproductive personality traits.

          Mask and Dirge are significantly different from Nature and Demeanor. Mask and Dirge are about the balance between your human and vampire sides, with each rewarding you for engaging in one or the other; complimenting the question posed by Humanity and the game. Nature and Demeanor are about having a "true" inner-self which is rewarded when played to, and a false image you show others which has no actual mechanical benefit whatsoever (not even to hiding your feelings or motivations).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by James_Nostack View Post
            From a game design standpoint, can someone walk me through the decision to switch over from the Virtue/Vice system in VTR 1e to the Mask & Dirge system in 2e?
            1e Virtue and Vice are very different than 2e Virtue and Vice, so I'll start with that. As Michael said Virtue & Vice were a system wide mechanic (though I disagree about their "coolness"). One problem with 1e's version is that it enforced a specific, Christian, moral viewpoint, and because it was so narrow it could be difficult to utilize in play with characters from a different milieu than the assumed.

            Contrariwise, 2e's Virtue and Vice (which I really wish they'd renamed) base themselves not on a specific religion's interpretation of good and evil, but on what a specific character strives towards (their Virtue, what I describe as their Ideal) or finds comfort in being (their Vice, what I describe as their Impulse or Indulgence).

            (1) In what way did Virtue & Vice fail to meet the themes of VTR, so that Mask & Dirge were better suited?
            Much of the tension in V:tR 2e comes from finding and maintaining your place in Vampire society. Who you are or want to be as a person (Virtue/Vice) is less important than how you conduct yourself amongst kine (Mask) and kindred (Dirge).

            Being human is fundamentally about growth, being vampire is fundamentally about maintenance.

            (2) What sub-systems are affected by Mask & Dirge? By this I mean something like: in VTR 1e, Virtue and Vice keyed into a couple of mechanics beyond simply replenishing Willpower. For example, the curse of the Daeva in 1e was that they'd lose 2 Willpower by ignoring their Vice--this meant that Daeva would, in general, act very strongly in accordance with their personal preferred sin. Also, Virtue and Vice also provided situational modifiers when trying to resist frenzy. Indirectly, Virtue and Vice also led the players to form moral judgments about the characters (including their own). I'd suspect that over play, Virtue and Vice would also cause you to engage in actions that directly affected 1e's Humanity score.
            Willpower regeneration is the biggest one, Vampires don't recover willpower when they rest, but it also gives bonuses or penalties to Detachment rolls for Humanity. There are no clan specific uses of Mask or Dirge, but I believe some powers (Auspex?) can reveal what they are. Dirge can also be used in Social Maneuvering to improve impression level.

            (3) At a quick glance, it seems like this stuff ties back to changes in how Humanity is conceived in 1e vs. 2e. Would it be correct to say that in 1e, Humanity is a question of, "Can I be a good human?" whereas in 2e it becomes, "Am I even human at all?"
            In 1e Humanity was a modification of 1e's Morality system (which was distinctly Victorian in outlook and implementation) with some "am I human" seasoning sprinkled on.

            2e is much more "how attached to being and acting human am I?" Hence the name of the breaking point: detachment.

            Originally posted by tsusasi View Post
            Although the concept of seven Virtues and seven Vices existed in philosophical and religious tenets prior to and independant of Christianity, they are generally considered a Christian concept. Pop culture currently has little tolerance for Christianity outside of targets to revile and ridicule.
            Or maybe not everyone is Christian and not everyone wants to play a character bound by explicitly Christian moral precepts. And American pop culture is a constant bombardment of Christian belief, even when not really appropriate.

            Also, the seven virtues/seven sins paradigm did not exist independent of Christianity, other formulations of virtue existed, but the one used in 1e was Christian in origin.
            Last edited by proindrakenzol; 05-18-2019, 01:13 PM.


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            • #7
              Can we please not go here? Please? Or at least start a different thread?

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              • #8
                To the extent I have any sway as the OP I would really, really prefer to avoid discussing Christianity's place in Vampire: the Requiem and popular culture generally.

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                • #9
                  I gave this some more thought, especially in light of Heavy Arms and proindrakenzol reminding me that vampires have no other way to regain Willpower. (Forgive me: I haven't actually played either game yet, so things that are obvious to everyone else aren't obvious to me.)

                  Let's assume that both editions of Vampire: the Requiem can be pretty challenging. Players want to spend Willpower in order to succeed or activate special powers, which is fun. From a design perspective, you want to encourage people to have fun, which means you want to make regaining Willpower to be both fairly easy and entertaining in its own right.

                  In both editions of Requiem vampires regain Willpower by acting a particular way during a scene. In fact they may act this way multiple times during a session if you're needing peak performance. 1e's Virtue and Vice might end up feeling more artificial and forced in play: they're behaviors or priorities, compared to 2e's Mask and Dirge which are kinda like stock character archtypes: the Buffoon, the Lover, the Fop, the Grizzled Vet, etc. etc. In drama, audiences often love stock characters because they're well-known but also really adaptable. And likewise that might be easier to role-play at the table. There are tons of ways to let your Foppishness get you in trouble and thus earn Willpower, and chances are this will be fun to watch. In comparison, engineering a scene where your "lust or compulsion victimizes others" may feel artificial, repetitive, and repulsive after a while. (I'm not convinced that's true, but I admit it's a possibility.)

                  In other words maybe in 2e Mask and Dirge make it easier for us to be fans of the characters and enjoy watching each other role-play, compared to the Virtue and Vice system of 1e. The design choice may have thematic significance too, since it influences what Willpower means as well as what Humanity's all about. But I'd probably rather watch someone act like a Cult Leader several times ("convince someone to deny logic because of your word") than act Greedy ("acquires something at the expense of another").

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                  • #10
                    It's not drastic, but it's been my experience that's generally the case.

                    Though it's worth noting that another aspect is that Mask and Dirge don't have to be negative in the course of events. They're supposed to involve a level of cost or risk instead. The line between respected authority and domineering jerkass that outranks other people is thin. Both can get you back Willpower, but risking challengers isn't a great idea to do every time you need more WP.

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                    • #11
                      The design reasons: We were writing to compatibility with GMC, and GMC Virtues and Vices were a poor fit for Vampire. They didn't serve either the punk or noir sides of the game, and were too vague to contribute to the horror atmosphere. Our best alternatives were Masquerade and Requiem from The Danse Macabre.

                      I think that they should draw from separate lists, as they did in the quickstart. And making them more like origin/role from Bleeding Edge and Identity from Unknown Armies 3e would also help.


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                      • #12
                        Thanks Rose Bailey ! The effects of the changes to Humanity and the Willpower economy between VTR 1e and 2e seem very subtle to me, and I'm still trying to work my head around them.

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                        • #13
                          I had a really hard time getting my head around how Masks and Dirges would work out in play. So I ended up writing a big thing trying to look at it from a bunch of different angles.

                          Guide to the Night (GttN) had a piece on M/D that I found really insightful. The point of the Anchors is to foreground certain themes or conflicts. To that end, GttN suggests alternate anchors, using themes like Masqurade/Requiem, Old/New, Scarcity/Something else, etc. In my current game, I've replaced M/D with "Damnation"/"Relationships". Basically you get WP for pursuing material stability (get a haven, get the blood doll's number, learn the hospice ward's layout), or emotional/social support (cry on a friend's sholder, ask someone for help, support someone else). I did this to try to foreground the two competing needs that the newly embraced have, and to nudge my players towards a particular type of conflict.

                          With this in mind, I think there are several ways to come at Mask v Dirge. I think they all kind of overlap. Anyway, here's a wall of text.


                          Secret Self vs Public Self:

                          There's a line about the Dirge being the guilty pleasure behind the Mask's lie. This is pretty similar to Nature and Demeanor, and I think can be used to play up 1) a gaslighting theme, or 2) a secret shame conflict. It can also work out to have some Virtue/Vice dynamics.

                          So, a Guru Mask with Monster Dirge might get WP for saying this is for your own good, while making you do something harmful
                          1. If we're gaslighting, the character gets WP because onlookers see Guru, while the action is Monster. Here we can play up the "everyday people are monsters" thing
                          2. If we go with secret shame, it tells us something about the character's motivations -- they want to be a Guru -- they want that status -- but they really get Monster pleasures out of it. This gives you Virtue/Vice dynamics. Note that a number of mechanics treat your Mask equivalently to a Virtue.





                          Vamp Identity/Society vs Human Identity/Society:
                          This might work for games where you want to play up the split-life dynamic. Maybe they're just roles that the character plays, or maybe these are genuine facets of the character. You can get conflicts about which identity to maintain and how to balance lives.

                          Take Persephany from Chicago/Hunger Like Fire. Authoritarian or Competitor Mask with Courtesan Dirge.
                          • Her human friends and relations know her from her days as a lawyer, but she spends her nights socially maneuvering.
                          • She is pulled in multiple directions; which identity will she prioritize? What happens when an old coworker sees her at a club? Awkward. Does she consider the Mask to be her true self, and does she start to lose track of the "real" her? What about when she gets a chance to go Authoritarian in her role as a vampire? Could an inhuman, Authoritarian act be a reemergence of her true self?
                          Or take Little Red, who has a Child Mask with Nomad Dirge.
                          • She's literally a child vamp and talks like a little kid to human strangers. Her job is to be the local Baron's travelling enforcer.
                          • If a human sees her beating up another vampire, her cover is blown. If a vampire finds out whom she's using as a surrogate parent, they've suddenly got blackmail material. To what extent is the Child Mask is a genuine aspect of Little Red's personality or a cover?


                          Finally,


                          Camo vs Predator:

                          In this case, it's what you show your prey vs what you show people who don't matter, or people you don't want anything from, or people you trust. This is obviously overlapping with the other two options, but I think it's importantly different. In this case, you'll focus on the artificiality of the Mask, and the inhumanity of the Dirge. This is less about what's driving the character and more about characteristic actions and how their personality expresses itself.

                          In this case, I have Huston's Joe Pitt in mind. At the end of the series, he's getting low on humanity and everyone is an enemy/prey. He's using a Monster Mask and a Survivor (maybe even Conspirator) Dirge.
                          • He uses the Monster to scare everyone off and perform misdirection. Make everyone think he's just a simple, unfeeling brute. But in reality he has a complex plan to set as many factions against eachother as possible, and get himself and the people he cares about out alive.
                          • You see the Conspirator in his plan. How he goes out of his way to piss everyone off, going so far as to get himself tortured. All as a misdirect.
                          • The Survivor is in his interactions with Daniel (the vampire Pope), Amanda (a detatched Touchstone?), Chubby (a friend), and Evie (his primary Touchstone). Joe just wants to get himself and his loved ones out alive, and he doesn't care how it happens.



                          I am not the biggest fan of the Mask/Dirge anchors, because I think they're a little vague and unhelpful. For any player trying to decide on which to choose, I would suggest trying to figure out what type of story they want to tell, and then deciding which types of conflict they find most compelling. Then try to write out how their Anchors are expressed -- just give it a paragraph or two tops.

                          Last edited by DubiousRuffian; 05-20-2019, 06:22 PM. Reason: formatting

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                          • #14
                            I use them as inner and outer self, both are part of who you are but you project your Mask more and your Dirge is that part of yourself you don't always acknolage even to yourself. My goto example is guru/competitor vs competitor/guru, one will help you to test themselves agenst your problems and the other will get in your face to make you confront your problems.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Rose Bailey View Post
                              Our best alternatives were Masquerade and Requiem from The Danse Macabre.

                              I think that they should draw from separate lists, as they did in the quickstart. And making them more like origin/role from Bleeding Edge and Identity from Unknown Armies 3e would also help.
                              Oh that makes it a lot clearer. It's kind of stupid, but I think I (and others) probably overthought it because it didn't literally say requiem/masquerade on the tin, and because some of the example masks/dirges generally fit one category a little better than the other.

                              The origin/background dichotomy definitely makes a lot of sense when applied to mask/dirge.

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