[VtM] On Persistent Worlds, and Gehenna

The last few years have been… difficult, if you’re a fan of the Vampire. I won’t go over all the controversies and nonsense here, because some muck is better left unraked. Suffice to say that the launch of V5 was troubled, and the core game continues to soldier on even though – if community created content is anything to go by – the long term player base doesn’t really want what it’s about.

As a returning player I actually quite like it.

I’ve spent more time with Vampire in its various forms than any other game system. I dabble, here and there, for curiosity’s sake or because someone really wants to play such-and-such-another-thing, but I come back to Requiem as a platonic “really good vampire game” and Masquerade as a realistic “good enough vampire game that people are more likely to play.”

Crucially, Masquerade is the only game to which I’ve come back often enough that I have an internally consistent and continuous game-world of my own. Something that exists along the framework established by Justin Achilli et al in Revised edition, as a starting point, but steps back from the inane grand-scale spectacle (we do spectacle, where I’m from, but it’s comparatively low key next to whatever the hell the Week of Nightmares is supposed to be or however it’s supposed to work at table), and throws out a lot of the metaplot while remaining similar enough that it can be hung off the same game-mechanical hooks.

In 2004, a rash of prophetic dreams (a man and a woman in the desert before dawn; she takes his confession and leaves him to greet the sun) and the rising of the Red Star initiated the Winnowing, a process in which the first seven generations of vampires all died, one generation a year. (A few generations might have been fudged, here and there, if I happen to like the character and think it was a bit daft that they were sixth generation because of daft literalist interpretations of the source material, ahem hem Bloodlines fandom.)

There were, however, a couple of weird exceptions; the Harbingers of Ashur who, unbeknownst to anyone outside their insane revenge cult (Lilith worshippers hanging out in the afterlife with four captive really old vampires in boxes), haven’t been true vampires for centuries, and the original coven of Tremere, who – as false vampires who weren’t Embraced at all – seemed to dodge a bullet. At least, they did until the players in my Gehenna game killed Tremere himself to stop him winning the conflict formerly known as Jyhad all by himself.

By 2009, visible princes, prisci and other big knobs were starting to die, and the major sects became increasingly unhinged, especially as the false Regent had “her” cover blown by the simple fact of her survival, and the Sabbat ran wild and collapsed.By 2012, it was clear that this had been Gehenna, and it was over; not with a bang nor a whimper but a slow death in the dark. Only the Bahari really have a clue why, and they’re not telling. They just smirk, and suggest the enquirer work on their interpretation of dreams.

Everything since then has been a scramble to find the new status quo, with the eighth and ninth generations inheriting broken thrones, and thinbloods as a spreading and despised underclass, as per. There may be some kind of connection between Ashefinders and Ashur, or it may just be homonymic convergence.

Everything but the last paragraph was already laid in before V5, as a consequence of prior games followed through. The Gehenna material is from my Victorian Age game that ran from 2002 to 2004 weekly, and wrapped up with a Final Nights timeskip in the summer of 2005. The Bahari plot thread was planted in Constantinople, Not Istanbul. (I think that was 2011-2018? why did I delete my blog? I’ve lost all sense of the recent past now… oh, that’s right, I was having an awful time and didn’t want to remember!) The collapse of the Sabbat is honestly implicit in every short-run Sabbat game I’ve ever tried to run. The outcome is the status quo for Glasgow By Night, which I started running in 2020 and is currently on hiatus while I pranny about being a player in Slaughterhouse Three and wonder if I’m going to get the whole band back together.

I think about this because, long ago, I was gently chided for flittering and fluttering between game systems and settings – what depth and growth and creative maturity there is in RPGs comes from settling down and sustaining in one place. On reflection, I think that’s happened for me with V:tM. It’s the one game I can point at and say yes, I remember how I ran this at seventeen and I am not running it like that now (although I’m still a total magpie when it comes to SPC concepts and names – I always tell people I’m talented, not creative, I just pinch bits from everything I like and shake them through the game setting), but the events from those games when I was seventeen are still in my personal “canon” – eroded by time and revised by increasing standards, but not unhappened, nor abandoned.

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