Prince’s Gambit by Onyx Path Publishing

Do you enjoy social deduction card games like Werewolf or The Resistance? You know, those fast-paced party icebreakers where you and your guests gather around a table and then accuse each other of being the bad guy? There’s generally a lot of shouting and laughing in this entertaining milieu of paranoia, seriousness and absurdity.

gambit
Image via kickstarter.com

It only seems natural that this genre of social card games would embrace the likes of the RPG World of Darkness setting Vampire: The Masquerade.

Onyx Path Publishing are promoting a new Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the publication of Prince’s Gambit. Check it out. There’s a gameplay demo and lots of information to sink your teeth into.

The night is young as you step into the VIP room of the hottest nightclub in town. You’re one of the leaders of the city’s vampire clans, and you’ve been summoned to meet with the Prince, along with your Machiavellian peers.

As each Primogen enters, the candles flicker as you stare into their eyes. The politics of the undead are always deadly, but there’s a heightened danger tonight. Because you know that at least one of the vampires staring back at you is a traitor, a member of the nefarious Sabbat.

The Prince demands that you work together on a series of intrigues. It’s a risk, but you’re already part of the deadly game. You have to see the Prince’s gambit through to the bitter end.

Vampire: The Masquerade

Last month I ran my first Vampire: The Masquerade session and it was glorious. For those unaware V:tM is a tabletop RPG where players roleplay as recently embraced kindred in a contemporary world full of good, bad and neutral vamps . Some creatures of the night uphold the masquerade by veiling their existence from humanity while others defy mainstream vampiric authority to fulfil a doomsday prophecy. The night is also populated by a cast of horrific abominations each with their own agendas.

This World of Darkness setting can be as gothic and as crazy as you want it to be, which is probably why V:tM endures to this day as a popular gaming platform. My first foray into this madness was the PC game.

VampireMasqueradeV20Logo

The session I ran weeks ago was intended to be a one-off, light-hearted afternoon of shenanigans. We had so much fun that the group want to immerse themselves in a proper campaign. Oh lordy, looks like I’ll need to learn the rules properly for next time. To keep the action moving I made hard and fast decisions rather than spend ages flicking through the source material.

Our biggest challenge as newbies was determining dice pools by finding the most appropriate attribute, talent etc. My thoughts: Just roll a bunch of D10s and see what happens. I do like the emphasis on roleplay though. Where an action would seem obviously possible there’s no need to roll dice. We only threw dice for combat situations and other contests. That’s where the pace slowed to a crawl at times.

The following slice of flash fiction is a summary of our first game and also features hints for the past, present and future of our evolving chronicle.

RE: 19.7.2015—Melbourne Terrorism and the Rise of the Sabbat

Good evening Lance,

Thank you. Your package arrived the other day (in several pieces). Please continue to courier pets my way for they are our primary source of sustenance here.

Regrettably, I am unable to meet you as originally planned. Recent events have complicated matters for all clans hence this long-winded communication.

My sire once bragged about carving diary entries into the flesh of his victims. He used to say that actions spoke louder than words and that the cattle needed to fear the sewers and the stormies from Newport to Werribee—effectively the entire Western suburbs. His scheme to strengthen the Nosferatu brood and to terrify the locals was a total failure.

Sure, Max was a wise, intelligent sire but he was often reckless. He recently left a pile of corpses at a kindergarten and their flayed, scarified backs told tales of depraved debauchery, paedophilia. It didn’t take long for the police to desecrate and torch our sanctuaries in search of a murderous child fucker. I am sure that the Sabbat were involved in this push (more to follow on that). Fortunately, my base of operations was spared. Do not return to any known dens. I will provide details of a new safehouse shortly.

Our Primogen is also presumed dead in one of the conflagrations. One of your new recommendations will be to check in with all local contacts to coordinate a new strategy to learn more of this treachery. Our numbers were reduced from a hundred to just under a dozen.

In other news: Brick, the Camarilla’s dim-witted Sheriff, hired our services yet again although rather than bug me with typo-riddled emails he came to my front door with a wheelbarrow of feral cats (how thoughtful).

Our meeting was oddly refreshing. Brick does not mince words and is everything like what I expected. If you have not met the Sheriff imagine WWE Superstar Kane’s in-bred cousin; he’s tall, lean, bald, blunt, no eyebrows and his pupils seem to swim around in those fishbowl eyes of his.

I pointed to the backdoor and gestured for Brick to leave the wheelbarrow in my kitchen (if you’re lucky you can take feline with you).

Brick grunted. He took a seat by the kitchen table, a stack of wooden pallets smeared with grease and viscera (you can clean it during your next visit). We spoke briefly. I did most of the talking; he did most of the grunting.

Our chat confirmed a few facts. Prince Dante, public face of Crown Casino, is so concerned about Toreador rivalry and vapid romance that he has unintentionally weakened the Camarilla, politically. Brick said that instead of taking charge of casino security after a botched Sabbat infiltration the Prince had him tail a coterie of inexperienced kindred instead.

Brick was able to provide dossiers on each one (see attached for photos). I mention these individuals for your information because they are linked to the Sabbat’s terror plot and the Sheriff has contracted us to dig deeper. You know, the explosions in the CBD and that bomb scare at Melbourne International Airport? The Sabbat are responsible and have started a war with the Camarilla. I figure your society would covet this revelation?

Please learn more about these young troublemakers. I’m surprised a blood hunt has not been declared—then again Prince Dante is distracted.

Persons of Interest

Sandy is a voluptuous 24-year-old Toreador. She has already used her gifts to glamour and to seduce. In time she will become more dangerous and charismatic. She betrayed the Camarilla and is currently wanted for questioning.

Sandy

Kaytrix is an 18-year-old Brujah. This young lady is a tortured artist with a short fuse. Eye-witness accounts claim to have seen her aid Sandy as an enforcer however that mood swing of hers makes for an unpredictable associate. Kaytrix is also wanted by the Camarilla for questioning.

Kaytrix

Johann is a 30-year-old Tremere. He’s a naturally gifted blood mage. Brick spoke highly of his ability to follow Camarilla instruction and his affinity with the Chantry.

Johann

Victoria is a 19-year-old Malkavian and seems to be otherwise free-spirited. Brick’s psych evaluation indicates that Victoria suffers from schizophrenia and his observations suggest that she is loyal to Johann and the Camarilla.

Kaytrix

Brick explained that these four vampires were initially brought to the sub-levels of Crown Tower to meet Doctor Davis, a respected leader among the Camarilla community (also Victoria’s sire). They were to be briefed on their task when a group of ghouls loyal to the Sabbat busted into their room. While Davis raced off to eviscerate one of the foul creatures the other vampires hid. Sandy, however, sipped her cocktail at the bar; her unfazed presence confused the hell out of these guys, which allowed Johann to surprise attack with a lamp. The other ghouls ran. Johann interrogated and vanquished the lone ghoul.

We know that the ghouls were physically augmented to be more fearsome (someone’s up to old vicissitude tricks).

Doctor Davis returned to the room. Based on their recent discovery he decided to send the team to a local nightclub where they would crash a Sabbat party.

On the way to the club Brick noted a masquerade violation. Sandy attempted to steal a slice of pizza from a teenager and then proceeded to mesmerise him in an attempt to calm the startled boy. One thing led to another and the boy was drained and dumped in the Yarra River. There was a second teenager however he has disappeared. Brick assumes the other boy met a similar fate. I’m not so sure.

The coterie met the flamboyant (and now deceased) club promoter, Boris. Sandy threw a drink in his face and almost started a bitch fight with Kaytrix.

Sandy and Victoria used their womanly wiles to pump information out of a Sabbat pack leader while Johann and Kaytrix entered the upstairs VIP area where the Sabbat congregated. All vampires present were gifted briefcases with timed explosives and were given instructions to plant them at strategic points around the Melbourne CBD.

This is where things got interesting according to Brick. Johann and Victoria return to Crown to report on impending disaster and to requisition a helicopter to chase and apprehend the renegades Kaytrix and Sandy.

Based on Johann’s detailed debrief their confrontation with their traitorous colleagues involved a form of mind control tennis where everyone tried to sway Kaytrix’s brutal mind to their own will. Sandy triumphed and retained her ally. The femme fatales fled for a private jet that zoomed off even though the entire airport was locked down. Agents in Cairo have confirmed a crash landing in Cairo …

Johann and Victoria did not pursue the renegades because a more sinister threat emerged, a lone Tzimisce surrounded by a horde of flesh-shaped horrors. We do not understand the Tzimisce’s motivation for presumably aiding the Sabbat or why they violated the masquerade by terrorising the airport in plain sight?

Ghoul

I do not think it is in anyone’s best interests for a rogue Tzimisce to consolidate power while the Caramarilla, the Anarchs and the Sabbat are at each other’s throats. What is your quotation for the Society of Leopold to seek and destroy this Tzimisce? I can provide more intelligence upon request.

As always, your discretion regarding these matters would be much appreciated. I recognise that if it was not for your intervention I too would be specks of ash. Does the Society of Leopold have any other requests of myself?

Regards,

Hunch

Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines — PC Games Review

Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines is one of the greatest role-playing games I have ever immersed myself in. Published a decade ago, the title is still enjoyed by loyal fans around the world. There is a community patch, resolution fixes and mods that expand on the original content by adding quests and bonus characters.

Back in 2004 I bought a copy of Bloodlines on CD-ROM. The installation process was far superior to Half-Life 2 because I didn’t have to rely on dial-up internet (56K) to install overnight.  The online distribution program Steam has improved considerably since.

I rolled a Toreador for my first playthrough. Toreadors are like Anne Rice’s depiction of our favourite creatures of the night. They’re pale, beautiful, seductive, romantic and the most humane of the clans. As a happy-go-lucky vamp diplomacy always trumped violence. Of course, there are boss fights and conflicts where a silver tongue will not talk you out of trouble.

Take two involved seeing the world through the eyes of a crazy Malkavian. The most demented of the Kindred, Malkavians utter off-hand remarks that turn out to be quite profound and insightful upon reflection (a testament to the clever writing). Every dialogue option is twisted—you can even talk to the wall. Just as well this was not my first outing in gothic Los Angeles because there are frustrating moments that can test your patience when your avatar does not make any sense.

Take three was very recent and informed my review of the game. Every bloodline offers something very different and what better clan to choose than the Tremere, vampire wizards! Yes, a vampire that can cast spells. I dominated mortals to get my way, entranced sentries to slip past unseen and threw blood at people (thaumaturgy).

Due to the physics glitches in the game I took full advantage. When I fought the Tzimisce flesh-shaping monstrosity I wedged myself between the wall and the stairs. Little two-legged creeps could not touch me and neither could the boss. You spend blood points to use thaumaturgy however there is a chance that the spell will return blood to the caster. If you are very lucky you can constantly hurl spells until the baddies are all gone.

If this sounds like your kind of fun read the review. Have you played Bloodlines before? Which vampire clan do you prefer?