Vampire: The Masquerade Companion Review – Expanding The Darkness

The Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop game has received a free content update, in the form of a book called Vampire: The Masquerade Companion. It’s a short read, but it has a lot of great ideas for expanding an existing chronicle, as well as allowing players to experience the World of Darkness from perspectives outside of the Kindred.

Vampire: The Masquerade Companion updates several classic clans for the modern game, adds new powers related to those clans, offers rules and suggestions for playing as ghouls and mortals, and fixes a few issues with the base game. The Companion might be the most important new addition to the tabletop game since launch, especially in regards to the returning clans, who have the power to change the World of Darkness as we know it.

Related: Paradox CEO Doesn’t Think Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 Will Launch Until Second Half Of 2021

The Companion brings back three of the clans from Vampire: The Masquerade and integrates them into the modern nights – the Ravnos, the Salubri, and the Tzimisce. Each has been altered significantly for V5 and almost all of the changes are an improvement.

By far the most exciting new clan in the Companion are the Ravnos. In the old World of Darkness, clan Ravnos were composed of racist depictions of the Romani people, and they were offered up as sacrificial lambs at the start of Gehenna when their Antideluvian woke up and nearly caused the end of the world. In the Companion, the Ravnos are daredevils who live for mischief and thrills. The current Ravnos associate themselves with trickster deities of old, like Loki and Hermes, and they serve many functions within the existing Kindred society, rather than being seen as unwelcome outsiders. The Ravnos have finally been done right, and the damaging stereotypes that surrounded them in the old World of Darkness can be left behind.

The Salubri are now a single clan, with no Watcher/Warrior subtypes to divide them. The current version of the Salubri are shrouded in mystery, to the point where their old backstory involving the Baali and the Tremere isn’t mentioned at all. It feels as if the developers purposely left the Salburi as mysterious as possible, to allow Storytellers to integrate them into the backstory of the setting as much, or as little as they’d like. The Salubri are an interesting clan in regards to their mysterious nature, third eye, and bane, which makes other vampires hunger for their blood, but their unique nature can also be off-putting. The Salubri always had the problem of being too special, being as they were meant to be good vampires (or secret soul-sucking monsters), and their presence took focus away from other characters and players. As such, the Salubri should be used in small doses, if at all.

The Tzimisce have also undergone a major personality change. The new Tzimisce are obsessed with control and domination, which can take on any number of forms, from being the ruler of a castle, to a gang leader patrolling their territory. This is in stark contrast to the old Tzimisce, who were inhuman monsters that acted like serial killers with superpowers. The new Tzimisce are similar to the Ventrue, except they still have the nightmarish flesh-crafting disciplines of old. It’s now easier to include Tzimisce as villains, as they operate on a more human and understandable level than they did in the past. The World of Darkness has no shortage of enemies for a coterie to face, but the Tzimisce could easily become the default foes of the setting. There is nothing stopping storytellers from using the monstrous Tzimisce of old as individual foes, as the new ones function the same way in terms of game mechanics.

It’s worth noting that the unique disciplines of the three clans from the old version of Vampire: The Masquerade have now been integrated into existing disciplines. Chimerstry is now part of Obfuscate, Obeah is part of Fortitude, Valeran is part of Auspex, and Vicissitude is part of Protean. This means that their abilities aren’t as unique as in the older editions of the game, and their disciplines are more in line with the other clans.

The old World of Darkness had entire game lines built around playing different supernatural races. The current World of Darkness only has fleshed out rules for Kindred, but the Companion now offers rules for playing as ghouls and mortals, either as members of a coterie, or as their own groups.

The ghoul rules in the Companion take several concepts from the excellent Ghouls: Fatal Addiction, and integrates them into the setting. In terms of rules, the ghouls and mortals are far weaker than Kindred, but they also lack the debilitating weakness to sunlight. There are a lot of interesting ideas in the Companion for entire stories built around mortal characters, but the most interesting involves creating them as second characters who act in service to existing Kindred player characters, allowing for different types of stories to be told. There isn’t much here in regards to playing vampire hunters (which is likely being saved for a Hunter revival further down the road), but what new content is here is excellent, and it opens up all kinds of new avenues for storytelling.

One of the hardest things about Vampire: The Masquerade is coming up for a reason why a coterie will band together. It isn’t like D&D, where a group joins together to slay a dragon and steal its treasure. The World of Darkness is supposed to be a place where you cannot trust anyone, so why would you join up with other Kindred who could stab you in the back?

The Companion has a fantastic section about why people would form a coterie and the mechanical benefits of joining a team. This section feels like it should have been in the base rulebook. There are now group abilities that allow members to give bonuses to others in their coterie, which differ depending on their clan. These rules are an amazing addition to the game, and they’re easily the best reason to check out the Companion.

Most of the new disciplines in the Companion are related to the returning clans and almost all of them are amalgam powers. This means that it’s possible for members of other clans to learn them, but it involves a lot of messing around. The Ravnos disciplines allow Kindred to create illusions, the Salubri disciplines involve affecting the emotional state of other Kindred, and the Tzimisce disciplines involve altering flesh and bones. All of the new disciplines fit well with the current version of the game and none of them seem as if they would be overpowered or disruptive. The Companion also introduces errata for existing rules. Blood Surges are now stronger, while Bane Severity is more severe, Bestial Failures can now occur from Messy Crits, and Lingering Kiss has been nerfed.

The World of Darkness is going in a new creative direction, and it’s unclear exactly what the future holds for the game and its lore. There have only been a handful of new Vampire: The Masquerade books released as part of the V5 line, but if the Companion is an indication of what’s in store, then it makes us excited for the World of Darkness going forward. The Companion is an essential guide for players and storytellers alike, and hey, it’s free, so there’s no reason not to check it out.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Companion is available to download now for free from the official World of Darkness website. The Gamer was provided with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of this review.

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Scott has been writing for The Gamer since it launched in 2017 and also regularly contributes to Screen Rant. He has previously written gaming articles for websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, and TopTenz. He has been gaming since the days of the ZX Spectrum, when it used to take 40 minutes to load a game from a tape cassette player to a black and white TV set.

Scott thinks Chrono Trigger is the best video game of all time, followed closely by Final Fantasy Tactics and Baldur’s Gate 2. He pretends that sorcerer is his favorite Dungeons & Dragons class in public but he secretly loves bards.

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