It has been a long time coming and Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition is almost here for us super fans to dive in and move into the 21st century in this World Of Darkness setting. There have been other smaller attempts to do just this in the past from White Wolf, but this is the next official word on where the game is and where it is going at this time. Even though it is still a bit off from officially launching to the general populace, we had a chance to get our hands on this edition of Vampire: The Masquerade. We dove right into all of the new lore and setting, as well as the updated game mechanics that should be fun for fans new and old of this title and genre. Here is our official review of how this tabletop game entry has done.
Worth noting here for transparency sake, most of the team and I have been huge fans of Vampire: The Masquerade and have been engrossed in it all since the early to late 90s. This may have made us more critical or place on those rose-colored lenses. Take that as you will as we offer up our attempt to stay unbiased for all of you out there.
Welcome to the World Of Darkness. A world much like our own but where all of the darker and more sinister things are at the forefront. A place where most of your conspiracies are likely to be true and in this setting the result of an ancient Vampire's machinations. Yes, vampires exist and have their seat in the ancient lore and events of the world and you have been made one for reasons known or unknown to you. From there, the story is for you, your friends, and storyteller to flesh out and bring to life. Anything is mostly possible and you can even look at your inner darkness in the process…
To start off with one of the things that bothered me with Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition, it had to be the formatting of the book in some places as well as how some of the lore is discriminated. The book uses a multi-column format that in some instances makes sense to keep the content all on the same page and limit the number of pages in the book. In other cases, it can be a bit confusing to keep track of. It is not impossible to read by any means, but it will require a few re-reads to make sure you are able to fully understand what is being described. In one instance, I was reading through one of Vampire powers and it bled into another that made it seem insanely more powerful that it truly was. All based on formatting. If you do not think that will not cause arguments at a table, you do not play tabletop games.
Slightly building on that, you can tell that this version of Vampire: The Masquerade was written by a few different writers at different times. Obviously, this is the case, but when you read through the book to understand how some mechanics work it will refer you to pages even deeper in the book or a completely different section even though it is all relevant to know at the time. Unless you have an eidetic memory, you will be jumping back and forth to understand the game's mechanics and setting as it will lightly describe something important and then say see page 100+ from now as we move on to another mechanic just as important. It could have been formatted a bit more to keep all of this in the same section and us reading the full section instead of needing to bounce around the book to understand.
All of the above could make it hard for new players to the Vampire: The Masquerade franchise to understand what is going on. Which leads into another issue; while Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition is designed to be easy for all players to get into it, the lore and setting shared here is also formatted in a way that makes it hard for any level of fan to read and understand. It makes sense given the history of how these books worked for White Wolf in the past but seems easier for the long-time fan to understand and get into it all. There are the new Lore Sheets, which are amazing, that do help with this for new players, but you cannot hand this to a fully new player and expect them to fully understand what is going on in the game and world before making a character. At least as the lore and story of the world goes.
Most of my issues for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition stem in the actual formatting and dissemination of information, it is true, when it comes to the gameplay mechanics, this is where the game starts to shine again like a Red Star in the sky. It is almost like White Wolf took some of the best aspects of the Old World Of Darkness games and the New World Of Darkness games and blended them together to make V5. Given that the game is being brought into the present day in the setting, it makes sense and explains why some of the in-game things have changed. It also offers up many of the classic ways that old timers, like our team, can use to keep playing in the world and not change much when it comes to the dice thrown or how characters are made.
Character creation in Vampire: The Masquerade is something has taken a lot of time in the past and here they have streamlined it to better move new players into the fun as well as give old players more options to go with. Even with the new Predator and Hunger Systems that deviate from the past games completely. There is also a heavier focus on making a living and breathing character instead of just throwing dots on a sheet with some basic descriptions. Given that this is White Wolf's Storyteller System, this makes much more sense and should lead to better games and interactions between all players at the table. It is definitely a "think about why you have these things" set up beside the previous "throw down your stats and then explain why you have them" kind of deal I always played within the past.
Another interesting focus that I enjoyed in Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition is the fact that while it has been updated to include a modern setting, the mechanics also reflect this for playing younger vampires and not the ancients that came before. There are still those options, and they offer up how to use all of their older books for V5, but there is the focus to bring players to modernity instead of the archaic. I know that this will not sit well with other older players, but the options offered up just in this core book should quell that quickly. You can read that as they still make the modern vampire a threat on itself, but kept the true horrors hidden in the background to give us a horror RPG that this franchise has always been to me. I know I personally love the option and look forward to see how it is brought in at a later time.
Lastly, and this took a bit of playing around to see, this edition of Vampire: The Masquerade brings in some new mechanics that make the game flow better and quicker than before. The Hunger system mostly removes the need to keep track of loads of Blood Traits in favor of playing up the personal horror of the Beast taking over. Then there are other options to speed up combat so players do not spend three hours of real time in a thirty-second in-game event. Also, as Vampire: The Masquerade has also always been a political game, there are new mechanics brought in to highlight that and make that just as deadly as a hunter with a flaming stake. Most of which can actually be played with throwing very few dice or all the dice depending on how your table feel like rolling that night or in general.
While difficult to read and understand at times, Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition does take the franchise and game forward as the team has set out to do. The larger of issues being resolved with multiple readings or practice of actually going through the steps. It could be a bit difficult for newer fans to dive in as it does need more knowledge of the World Of Darkness and Vampire: The Masquerade in general than what is offered up, in terms of world setting, but all of the mechanics have multiple options to fit the needs of the table. I know I will be playing more on the game once it full launches and look forward to where it goes from here. Even without my past love of the franchise, I will say it is a good game for those interested in a dark look at the world and exploring the more adult side of tabletop games. Adult in the way of mentality and themes and not specifically sex; although it is used vastly in there as well.
I give Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition 11 d10s on the d10 scale.
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition — What's Past is Prologue