Let's Read Vampire: The Masquerade, 1st Edition, Part One

Released in 1991, Vampire: The Masquerade (VTM) introduced the World of Darkness and paved the way for dozens of game lines to follow. But what was that original green book like, and does it hold up now, over 25 years later?

The Damned

VTM opens with a section in-character fiction in the form of a letter from one VT to WH describing the nature of vampires (or the Kindred, as they call themselves), the society they have built for themselves, and the collection of laws they follow called the Masquerade. While it isn't directly stated, it is heavily implied that VT is Count Dracula (nee, Vlad Tepes) and WH is Wilhelmina Harker, tying the setting into that most classic of vampire tales.

This section sets the tone for many later White Wolf titles, though I must say that the fiction gets better in later years. This is really just a setting chapter, and the implication of Dracula as a member of the Kindred detracts from the world they're trying to build—mainly because the effort to make the vampires of VTM original mean that they contradict Stoker's novel in several ways.

Chapter One: Introduction

This chapter does a better job setting up both the game and the world than the opening fiction did. Considering the audiences this game opened up, it also does a respectable job explaining roleplaying as a form and hobby, even touching on live-action play.

This chapter also begins a series of illustrations that run throughout the book detailing the story first of Shelzza, a vampire in ancient Babylon. Captions tell of her night's hunt, sleeping, and then being awakened and called before the king, a vampire as well. This story, told in single frames, is unusual in roleplaying. I don't know of it appearing even in any later World of Darkness titles.

Finally, this section concludes with a fragment from the Book of Nod. This tome is a crucial part of the VTM mythology, and it was later filled out in a standalone fiction title. It is interesting to see it seeded here. The story of Caine, the first murder, and the Biblical origins of vampires form the basis for the mythic resonance that gave VTM much of its power, I suspect.

Tomorrow, I'll continue with he chapters on basic rules and character creation, in which I may discuss how 1st edition differs from later versions of the Storyteller system.


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