Hello everyone! It’s been a little bit since my last post, but I have some exciting news! I am participating in this years VtM Game Jam! I am the lead writer for a project called Domain! Domain is a game set in the Vampire the Masquerade Fifth Edition universe. It’s a turn-based strategy game with a focus on capturing territory. The main goal of Domain is to get thirty points between six different recurses. These resources are Blood, Influence, Allies, Armory, Information, and Resources. Each of these stats are important when trying to claim your Barony or trying to secure the title of Prince.
Information is all about what you know. What secrets you know and how you can leverage them. Influence is all about your sway over the city politically. Blood is an important resource for a Kindred and represents your blood supply. Allies represents the other Kindred allied to you. Armory represents how many weapons you have at your disposal. Resources represents how much cash you have. You will need at least 30 of these stats combined to win the game, but it’s not so simple as a race to 30 combined stats, but you also must announce your Praxis or your claim to barony at Elysium. In order to go to Elysium you must capture territory and expand your domain. Doing so will increase one of your stats.
Each stat check has a difficulty of three though the options. The game doesn’t directly tell you what the stat check is, it just makes a heavy allusion for what you need to do like Resources will usually have purchasing involved. There is a third option, called the Humanity option. In lore this is your character doing the most monstrous thing they can to guarantee success, but at the cost of their Humanity. You must use this option sparingly or may enter Wassail and lose your very mind to the Beast. In function this is just you spending a point to guarantee a success. You have 3 points to spend total.
In addition to capturing territory, you also have to contend with Hunger. Hunger is a fairly simple mechanic. Each turn represents one night of in-universe time. At the start of each new turn you gain one hunger If you start a turn at 6 hunger you risk Frenzy and breaking the Masquerade. If you break the Masquerade enough you will lose due to Hunters tracking you down and killing you. In order to slake your thirst you must spend an entire turn to feed.
There are six playable characters in Domain. The three characters representing the Anarch Sect and looking to become Baron is a Minister, a Brujah, and a Gangrel. For the Camarilla you have a Nosferatu, a Ventrue, and a Toreador trying to claim the Princedom of the city.
Play Domain and decide how you will take control.
The Development Team
Aside from myself there are two others working on this project along side me. The Artist who made the beautiful art you see featured in this post is Guava. The Coder for the team is called Ziggy. This game was made in Unity using the Ink language.
Roxanne Dimitri was my first ever VtM character. I had no idea what I was doing with her as a Kindred, but I did have a very clear idea about who she was in life. I have chosen to update her to reflect her better and to explore an aspect of a clan that I feel was left out in V5. Before we begin I would like to add a trigger warning for cannibalism. With that said, let us start with my initial version of her, the Gangrel version.
Roxanne’s Life (Gangrel version)
Roxanne Dimitri was born to a loving family in Georgia. As a child she never really fit in much with the other girls and was much more interested in exploring the vast forests behind her house. She would commonly go spelunking in unexplored caves and even injure herself. She quickly learned how to treat some injures that she would get on these adventures. Over time, Roxanne would develop a kinship with the animals of the forest and even gain a distaste for hurting them. As she grew older she gained an interest in Archeology. This was something probably passed down to her from her mother who left a degree in archeology to care for Roxanne.
Eventually, she would take her years exploring the forests and treating injuries and put it to good use, becoming what the press would call the “real life Laura Croft”. She was essentially a tomb raider and got some wealth from gathering artifacts. Though, not all people interested in artifacts are good people. A Mr. Darkwood would hire her for some… less than legal purposes and would get some additional funds from getting artifacts for him, including a strange book with odd symbols. She didn’t bother to read it though. She wasn’t paid to read it, just retrieve it. Besides, reading wasn’t really for her. Of course, this lifestyle had some dangers.
One time during an adventure in the middle east, she was exploring a tomb. She had a local guide and was trying to recover some sort of artifact for Mr. Darkwood and the guide was hired by him. During their exit with the artifact in hand, a trap was triggered that left a boulder on the entrance and they could not move. They were stuck in the tomb for two or three weeks. During which time, they ran out of food and eventually started to starve. The tour guide eventually started to attack Roxanne out of desperation and she killed the tour guide and eventually ate parts of him. Though, she was eventually rescued and the cannibalism was covered up.
After this experience, Roxanne decided to stay in the United States for a while and explore the land by foot. This lead her to travel north towards Maine, but she was stopped near Hartford, Connecticut.
Unlife (Gangrel Version)
Roxanne’s unlife began shortly after she got near Hartford. See, I neglected to mention that Roxanne had a group of cats that followed her all the way up to Hartford shortly after she left Georgia on foot. These cats were actually a pack of Sabbat Gangrel that were trying to judge her worthiness for the Embrace. She was knocked out outside of the city and brought to a park where she was Embraced. She woke up from the embrace in a hunger Frenzy and gorged herself on the blood of someone that was out for a run. This disturbance did not go unnoticed.
A local Baron by the name of Shelly sent out a coterie to investigate the disturbance in the park. There, they discovered Roxanne and by discovered I mean ran over as she was trying to get help for the person she unknowingly killed. The body was covered up to preserve the masquerade and she was accepted into a coterie of three, now four, called the Flat-Liners. The original coterie included Roxanne, a Catiff on the path of Golchonda named Esrael, a Nosferatu ex-cop by the name of Gordon, and a Tremere with a third eye by the name of Felix. This coterie wouldn’t always stay the same. Felix and Gordon would eventually leave for their own reasons and three new members would join them. A Toreador by the name of John Dashwood, a Brujah by the name of Aaron, a thin-blood turned Tzimisci named Daniel, and after she left the coterie a Ravnos by the name of Diana.
Roxanne wouldn’t have a difficult time adjusting to being a kindred. Though, she would commonly frenzy and end up killing people. Due to making some poor choices she would become quite self-destructive feeling that she was a burden to the coterie, and after her mortal mother discovered the existence of vampires she went after her. What exactly happened to her is unknown, but what is known is that she was an extremely low humanity (humanity 2) when she left the coterie to look for her mother.
What I learned from my initial version of Roxanne
I learned many things from my initial version of her. While I couldn’t get into too many details as I played her for an entire year I learned so much about the World of Darkness from playing her. Though I think one thing I learned was that I was putting my own mental health issues into her. I was deeply depressed during the time I was playing her and that self-destructiveness was maybe a side-effect of my mental health at the time. For example, she almost tried to turn herself into a Baali to save her Friend/Sire-figure Esrael. She also danced the spiral. There’s more I could talk on with her, but overall I stopped playing her because I was no longer happy with her and she had a lot of emotional baggage on my end due to how I played her when my depression was really bad. This was through no fault of my ST and was completely in my head. This emotional baggage plus a better understanding of the WoD on my end made me want to start over and make a better version of her.
My philosophy when remaking Roxanne
Roxanne was a fairly complex character at least on my end. She had to deal with a lot of stuff, but no matter what she did she was always trying to do what was best for the coterie. This inherent kind streak within her really made me start to think about how to improve upon her original design and make her a character I could truly learn to enjoy once more. Thus we come to her second, and now current iteration of the Salubri version.
From wandering Warrior to Paladin
This version of Roxanne has taken my more experienced approach on the World of Darkness and sprinkled that in. So, let’s begin. This version of Roxanne has a very similar childhood. She still likes the forests and was a bit of an adventurer, but never went on any globe-hopping adventures. After being Embraced by her Sire, Highlander, of the Salubri Antitribue she realized the Sword of Caine was not her her and she shortly aboned it after her Embrace. She then ventured to reclaim the lost title of the Warrior caste of the Salubri. She wasn’t just someone who could heal, she was someone who could fight. Due to how the Salubri work in V5 she will have to fight. If other Kindred want her Vitae she will not just let them. She will fight for it. She is proud to be a salubri and only hides what she is from the Mortals of the world using a hooded robe. Because she uses a sword, she also wears a ballistic vest to protect her from gunfire. Now she roams the nights trying to reclaim the lost title of the Salubri Warrior caste and is a fervent supporter of the Anarch movement.
For the uninitiated to V5, you only have five hunger slots. You have a chance to earn an additional hunger every time you make a rouse check with what is called a hunger die. Hunger dice are dice that make it more difficult to get a success, which means you gain more hunger. Hunger dice also include the messy critical and bestial failure systems, but that is a topic for another time. Also, you cannot go below hunger one without draining someone dry. Starting at hunger four, you need to start making hunger frenzy checks if you see or taste blood. I’m sure some of you can already see the problem here.
The Problem I have with hunger in V5
The main problem I have with hunger, given that there are no elder rules at the time of writing, is that you are already 20% hungry pretty much no matter what. I understand that V5 focuses mostly on fledglings and neonates, but in my personal experience you are constantly hungry in V5. On average, I found myself at hunger two or three. While I understand that V5 has themes of dis-empowerment, I feel that it is too limiting. A great way to see why this is a problem is that in the year-long Chronicle I was in we would spend at least an hour or two every session on feeding – and that’s assuming everything went well! I understand that an important part of being a vampire is that thirst for blood and V5 does an amazing job of making you feel like a vampire, but there’s needing to feed and practically starving during combat when disciplines are flying and you’re making many of those rouse checks. Speaking of combat.
This hunger system is crushing in combat where every discipline power above level one requires one or more of them. So, let’s say you’re playing a combat Gangrel. You’d be rousing to use Feral Weapons, maybe rousing to increase your combat dice, and then rousing to heal. In this theoretical combat let’s say you pop your claws, that’s one rouse. Then, you have a contest or two that you’re not sure you can win so you rouse for them that’s three rouses. After the combat let’s say you took 3 superficial damage, that’s three additional rouses assuming BP1. In total, that brings us to a grand total of six rouse checks! I will now roll a hunger die six times on my desk and record the results: success, fail, fail, success, fail, and success. In this example, we would have gained three hunger. That would take us, assuming we had one hunger at the start of this, to hunger four. At hunger four, you need to make a frenzy roll to feed. Are you starting to see the problem yet?
I want to make it clear that I am not advocating for the hunger system to change drastically. I like the hunger system for how it makes you feel like a vampire, but I see the problems. Especially with combat characters, this system punishes then too harshly. See the example above. Before I write out two ways of solving this issue, I will address counterpoints to my opinion.
Counterpoints to my opinion
I have had a discussion or two about this topic and I wanted to address some of the common arguments against me disliking how limiting the hunger system in V5 is.
“Elders didn’t fight all the time, they had sphere of influences or had ghouls do things for them.”
Yes, they did, but V5 focuses on neonates and fledglings, mostly. Quite frankly, while neonates and fledglings do a fair amount of politicking, you’re going to fight much more as a fledgling. This system punishes them unfairly, I feel.
“Combat should be a last resort for Kindred.”
I agree, but sometimes you get an SI on your tail or another Kindred just refuses to listen, so you have to go in and do the dirty work. As I said, due to this system focusing on fledglings, combat is going to be inevitable at one point or another unless you’re amazing with words.
Also, what if you want to be a combat-focused character? That’s just punishing someone for playing the game in a way they find enjoyable. You cannot tell me that there is not a guard dog of some kind for a Ventrue or a Prince’s personal bodyguard that is there purely for combat.
Let us not forget about the Sabbat, who have not been released at the time of writing. Their whole perspective is that they are fighting a war against the antediluvians and their servants. They’re going to engage in combat a lot.
“Maybe you should be more strategic when you use your rouses.”
This argument is like saying “Don’t use the powers that are given to you”. While, yes, some situations don’t call for them they can be really useful. Now, you can argue that this is using your disciplines as a crutch which is a fair argument, but to that I say yes. Kindred sometimes need to rely on their disciplines. It’s a fairly big part of the game and I’m not saying you should be able to use them 24/7, but there should be some more wiggle room than there currently is.
“But I like the hunger system how it is.”
I’m glad you do and your opinion is completely valid. I just personally feel it is too punishing to combat characters as I mostly play one. If you find it good at is it I’m happy for you and I hope you continue to enjoy it!
I have to ways to fix this problem that I can think of. One is how I handle it, and the other is one suggested by a friend of mine who is also an ST.
Solution 1: sect food supplies.
This was the solution I came up with for the chronicle I ran. Basically, given that hunger is such a big problem, it would be reasonable that the sects, especially the Camarilla, would have a place where people could go to get unlimited blood. Though, with the caveat that you cannot find dyscrasias there. In order to find those you would need to actually hunt.
While this does lessen parts of being a vampire this also would make sense given how easy it is for people to frenzy. This way, you don’t need to spend hours feeding you can just go “Hey, I’m stopping by the place we get blood” and you’re ready to go.
Solution 2: have a total of seven hunger
This solution was given to me by one of my friends who is also an ST. He suggested increasing the hunger to a total of seven. That way you could still have a limited amount of hunger, but you have a little more breathing room. This would alleviate this system being so crushing for combat-focused characters and also allow you a little more flexibility on when you can use your disciplines.
The downside suggested to being above hunger four is that you have the equivalent to the Obvious predator flaw (V5 p.189).
I love the V5 hunger system, but I feel that it is a little too punishing for people who want to be combat-focused. The system also is a little too restrictive on when you can use your disciplines. I love V5 and that’s why I care enough to write about this. I will probably write about the resonance system at a later point because I have opinions on that system. In the meantime, feel free to discuss in the comments. I’d love to see what other people think about my take on this topic.