I might play VtM with my girlfriend for the first time. No DM experience, tips?

15 Aug 2019 11:38 #300801 by Erik Twice
I'm going on vacation with my girlfriend for some days and I had the idea of playing Vampire: The Masquerade with her. Surprisingly she agreed, which put me on the position of preparing something.

I have the introductory "Forged in Steel" adventure as well as the Chicago by Night supplement.

I have no real DM experience. I've also never played a RPG 1 on 1.

She has never roleplayed before.

Any advice?

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15 Aug 2019 11:51 #300802 by quozl
It's harder to roleplay when you don't have other players to riff off of. So sometimes you need to take off your GM hat and riff with her. Also, there will be times you disagree on stuff. Talk it out and if you can't agree, let the dice decide.

Other than that, just have fun!
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15 Aug 2019 13:21 - 15 Aug 2019 13:34 #300803 by Shellhead
Disclaimer: I don't have much experience playing Vampire: the Masquerade, and it's one of the few popular RPGs that I have never DM'd. But I know the World of Darkness setting well from playing Jyhad and playing in several Vampire live-action RPGs. I vaguely remember the Gary setting described in the back of the first edition rulebook, and I have driven through the city of Gary numerous times over the years. I can't remember if Forged in Steel has an actual defined adventure or is more of just a setting description with some key NPC stats and some storyhooks. I recently watched a documentary about White Wolf Games ("The World of Darkness") on Amazon Prime, and learned that Mark Rein-Hagen was inspired to create Vampire: the Masquerade after getting a close look at the city of Gary during a drive to GenCon in 1990.

Assuming no defined adventure, you should look at the interesting hooks in the setting, and pick one or two as initial challenges. IIRC, there were at least a couple of different vampire hunters in Gary, including a federal agent. And there is an ongoing auction of human beings, which could make for a convenient source of blood or something that your girlfriend's character might oppose and try to shut down. The Prince of the City is weak, so maybe anarch vampires threaten his rule, or disrespectful vampires from Chicago are poaching on his turf. If her character just became a vampire, maybe start out with some basic vampire stuff like hunting her first victim and learning the six Traditions from the vampire who sired her. Anyway, pick a hook or two and come up with a sketch of an adventure based on that hook. Then prepare to improvise on the fly as she makes choices that you didn't anticipate.

Pay attention to the kind of character she creates because that may give you some additional ideas for an adventure. If she makes a Brujah, she is probably looking for action. If she makes a Ventrue, she might have an interest in vampire politics. If she makes a Nosferatu or Malkavian, she might want to explore the personal horror of being visibly or mentally changed for the worse when becoming a vampire.

In each scene, spend at least a couple of sentences describing the physical appearance and mood of the immediate surroundings. Add in sensory details, like the smell of rotting garbage or gas fumes, or the crunch of broken glass underfoot. Don't spend a lot of time describing each character that she meets, but try to include at least one or two memorable details, like heavy eyebrows or a tattoo or a bright red necktie. Also, try to encourage her to speak as her character, and do the same with the non-player characters that you run. For example, "My character tells him to back off" isn't good, because it shows a degree of detachment from the game. Better for her to just directly say "Back off!" Also, try to change up the way you talk when you play different NPCs. I don't mean full-blown acting or funny voices, just choose different words to indicate differences between characters. The Prince is old, probably centuries old, so he is unlikely to use modern slang or talk about current pop culture. A Tremere vampire might talk like an intellectual, while a Brujah is more likely to talk in a direct and maybe aggressive manner.
Last edit: 15 Aug 2019 13:34 by Shellhead.
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15 Aug 2019 13:31 #300804 by Shellhead
Just found a great discussion thread about Forged in Steel and related books:


There are some great tips in there about story hooks and how to portray the key NPCs. For example, here are some thoughts about Modius, Prince of Gary: "...Modius is a coward and backstabber that probably has a very high pitched voice that goes up an octave whenever he's threatened. There's also a rather uncomfortable bit of suggestion that Modius has two servants and they're both elderly black men he's dominated into complete submission. There's just enough hint of the racial subtext there that he becomes all the more hatable."
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15 Aug 2019 14:31 - 15 Aug 2019 14:39 #300807 by Erik Twice
Wow, that's a great link, thanks!

The adventure itself is pretty much attending a party, which I'm not too happy with. I would really like some goal or more of a concrete adventure. I think it would be easier for both of us, and from what I know, she's the kind of gamer who welcomes some "action" and not just sitting around talking. In other words, she wants to do stuff, not just talk. And I know VtM is very much about that talk, but I would like her to have something to do beyond roleplaying her character.

I'm also 99% sure she's going to be a Toreador or something of the sort.
Last edit: 15 Aug 2019 14:39 by Erik Twice.

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15 Aug 2019 18:37 #300819 by Shellhead
That party sounds familiar. I think that the party starts out as a way to meet the Prince and a few other important local vampires, and then the local anarch vampires crash the party and make a scene. That's not a bad start, because it gives her a chance to form an opinion of the Prince and these other key vampires (and for them to form an opinion of her character), and then she gets an idea of the difference between the Camarilla vampires and the anarchs. The biggest difference is that the Camarilla is more discrete and civilized, while the anarchs are more bold and action-oriented. She may find herself more in sympathy with the anarchs, but will eventually find that they attract more attention from vampire hunters. If she sides with the Camarilla, plan to get her involved with in their intrigues. The Prince is a Toreador, though not a typical one, so that could make for an interesting contrast if she plays a Toreador. If she sides with the anarchs, that can easily lead to clashes with one or more of the local vampire hunters in Gary, for a more combat-oriented approach.

By general role-playing standards, you are right in saying that a party isn't much of an adventure hook. Vampire: the Masquerade campaigns tend to pay more attention to character development and personal drama, so this is actually a very good way to start a Vampire game. Maybe start out your first session with a flashback interaction with her character's sire where you can have the sire explain the six Traditions to her. Then role-play out her first time hunting for blood, to underline that she is playing a monster, even if she is using Presence to seduce her victim instead of just grabbing someone and biting them in the neck. Then move onto this party and see what she does. If she doesn't do anything proactive, maybe have the anarchs start beating up party guests near her, then approach her.
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20 Aug 2019 13:00 #300943 by Erik Twice
So we played for a bit!

I was a bit clumsy. I have no experience and had to check my notes quite a bit. She made a Tremere (which I didn't expect but was cool) and we started playing.

I decided to have her start at the bus station and find her way to the Prince's mansion. Of course, she was encouraged so top for a snack, which she did. I took this as an opportunity to make her roll, so she would get used to the game's mechanics. She asked for directions, bit the guy but was seen by a hobo. She Dominated the hobo into thinking they were just making out and the hobo smiled and left.

She eventually got to the party and started talking with Michael, a mentally handicapped Malkavian. He's supposed to be scared because there's a suspicious car with a hunter outside, but she blew the rolls and didn't connect the dots of him being afraid of something OUTSIDE the mansion.

He tried to talk with Lucian, an older grumpy vampire but left the moment he seemd to reject conservation. He had more luck with Danov, a very well-designed character who helps players define their characters by asking general questions about them (What do you think of the vampire world? Have you heard of Golconda? Where is your sire? etc.). I played all characters a bit softer than usual because she was shy.

So shy, in fact, that when Juggler (an Anarch) broke into the room with a bunch of humans, her answer was to stand and watch, trying to dodge the problem. Hey, I can't blame her, in my first VtM game I asked the bartender for help in a fight. So yeah, I had to push things a bit and have Juggler's Childe engage with her character in conversation. After being told she talked with everyone as if she owned the place, my girlfriend laughed and say she was very jealous.

We didn't play much more. While fun, it really seemed like the nature of the game clashed a lot with her personality. She's introverted and going around being pushy with people at a party so they talk is very much what she doesn't enjoy doing. She was intrigued by Michael and some of the finer details, but found the game too much about politics and bickering for her to enjoy. Which I can see, to be honest.

Next time,I think I'll try with D&D or something less "social". And hey, I can't complain because she wants to play Dune with me and that's awesome.


On a related note, this is an extremely important adventure. It really encapsulates what made VtM such a groundbreaking game. There are no enemies, no fights and not even a villain. It's just all talking and socializing. And while there are a couple forced touches (like trying to get a player blood bound), it has held up very well.
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20 Aug 2019 19:54 - 20 Aug 2019 20:00 #300967 by Mantidman
Good evening,
Having purchased many VtM products and having run a story in Tampa, FL during the early '90's, I enjoy the premise, the lore, and the system.
I would ask, from any that know, how the Vampire: the Requiem compares?
I have not played, nor purchased products since the mid '90's
It seems to be almost total knowledge about the history of vampires in VtM vs. very murky origin story in VtR. Stat upgrades in VtM vs. more story stuff in VtR.
I apologize if this has been discussed on this site before. I just had a friend start to ask about role-playing, but given their preferences, I think Vampire might be a better fit than D&D, Pathfinder, and/or Labyrinth Lords.

Regarding the OP, consider yourself lucky that your SO will play games with you , will engage with you. I am slowly getting more people to play with, but having a partner that will join together with you in a hobby you both enjoy, that is something to cherish.
Last edit: 20 Aug 2019 20:00 by Mantidman. Reason: Proofreading
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21 Aug 2019 06:35 #300978 by Erik Twice
Hello Manditman,

From what I know, Vampire: The Requiem was designed to address some of the fundamental limitations of Vampire: The Maquerade as a game. While fun, the idea of overpowered elders and a single origin for vampires reduced some of the possibilities of the game and hence they designed a system that was more open. It also had the goal of unifying different product lines under one system.

It didn't take off, with most people prefering the older version. In fact, now we have Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition and the previous 20th anniversary edition which seem to beheavily preferred. Chances are you would enjoy those, though I heard pretty bad things about 5th edition when it was first released.

Personally, I think the system doesn't matter too much for beginners so I wouldn't worry about it. VtM is very easy to play, though.

I am indeed lucky she plays with me sometimes. She's not much into boardgames but she loves Cosmic, so as far as I'm concerned I struck gold!
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21 Aug 2019 10:38 #300995 by Shellhead
Vampire: the Masquerade and other White Wolf products lines set in the Old World of Darkness published too many sourcebooks and not enough adventures, eventually revealing nearly 100% of the secrets of the setting. The various game lines didn't work well together and several had completely incompatible paradigms. There were a lot of unfortunate ethnic stereotypes built into the setting. For example, the Ravnos were a clan of gypsy vampires who were notorious for using illusions to trick people and steal from them. There was also an overall metaplot that took some extreme turns along the way. By 2003, White Wolf really had no better option than to reboot the setting and hope that the fans would stay interested.

The reboot wasn't bad, but the New World of Darkness ultimately seemed like a smaller and more vague setting due to the lack of extensive details. There was a single neutral core rulebook for all the game lines, and you would use it in conjunction with the main rule book for a given game. This made all of the new games more directly compatible. On the plus side, there were some excellent products that were designed to be usable by multiple games with the World of Darkness. The new Chicago setting was designed for use in Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage games. There was a detailed mental institution that could be used in any campaign, as well as a police precinct that I suspect drew extensively on Homicide and The Wire. My personal favorite was Damnation City, which was a messy but interesting grab bag of ideas and mechanics for use in any urban campaign, though the focus of some chapters was specifically on vampires.

If I ever got around to running a World of Darkness campaign, I would probably use the Old World of Darkness, edited to remove some of the stereotypes and the metaplot, and reduce the global power structure of the Sabbat and the Camarilla vampires to more local power bases. And I would definitely make use of some of the newer materials like Damnation City, the asylum, and the police precinct.
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