If I were to write a role-playing game about vampires as protagonists, I would re-focus on the elements that I like from modern lore.
First, I would scrap clans, politics and Princes. Vampires are rare and lonely creatures, sticking together for many years. There is no Masquerade: the only consequence of being careless and sloppy is attracting the attention of the authorities, mobs of frightened people or, at worst, dedicated Vampire Hunters. Some hunters are so skilled that direct confrontation is a terrible idea: it would be better to flee, hide and outlive them instead.
A party of vampires would be sticking together for survival and loneliness. Each of them has lost contact with their “sires” for a variety of reasons: they’ve been destroyed, they just separated, they’re enemies or, to be blunt, they don’t know who or where their sires are.
- Long Life: I would focus on the fact that vampires live… basically forever unless they’re destroyed. The game would be set up so that each campaign would be broken up into decades or longer. A campaign would be broken up into “Books”, which are a group of sessions that focuses on resolving one conflict. Each of these “Books” would then be followed by a period of downtime equal to a number of years. Depending on the pre-established scope of the campaign, these downtime passages could be huge. For example, one could start in the 1920s and play up into the 1980s (each downtime would be 5 to 10 years) or begin in the early medieval age and play up until the Victorian age (each downtime would be 10-30 years, or longer).
- Party Cohesion: tying into the long life aspect, a group of vampire characters would stick together out of loneliness: every mortal that they know, love or befriend eventually dies. Even if a group of vampires practically detest each other, they stick together out of desperation. Or perhaps because they share a common, persistent foe…
- Hunters = dangerous: Vampire hunters are an actual threat. Experienced ones are fully aware of a vampire’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. There are entire secret societies that hunt out the undead and so a vampire had better be careful and discrete.
- Older = Stronger: some powers, like strength, durability, speed and senses would become more potent with time rather than spending experience points and levelling up. That way, meeting an elder vampire (several hundreds of years old) would be terrifying. An old vampire might have an ageless antagonist following their footsteps (in the form of a multi-generational secret society of hunters, or a family with an oath of vengeance).
- Rarity: there are no clans, no tribes, no factions and no secret wars. Vampires are really, really rare and for a good reason: too many and there are all kinds of problems. The young ones often don’t last and most of them are destroyed early, either by carelessness and foolishness.
- Scary: all of the vampire’s flaws (there are more than one, inherited from the one that sires another) make them truly monstrous in the right (or wrong) conditions. They might be sexy in the right moment, but when the fangs come out they are nightmarish.
- Flight: I like my vampires able to climb up walls like spiders and floating or hovering in the air. There will be a basic power (that increases in effect with age) that allows vampires to do these things.
- Flexibility with Disciplines: there are no clans, so take your favourite edition of Vampire and use any of Disciplines from that one: mix and match to taste. Each player, in collaboration with the Storyteller, can pick which disciplines that they were inherited and/or were taught by their Sire (the one who created them). Choose wisely: 5 disciplines is the maximum a vampire can have. Note that Potence, Fortitude, Celerity and Auspex are owned by all vampires and only increase in power through age, not experience.
I don’t like pools of d10s with variable difficulties. Instead, I’d simplify:
Pool of d6s. 4+ is a success. Task difficulty is determined by the number of successes needed on a roll. Special abilities, equipment or backgrounds can add automatic successes before you even roll. Opposed checks (eg: combat, hiding from someone searching for you, car chase) is an opposed dice roll. The character who scores the greater number of successes wins the check. Helping someone out will add dice to their pool (to an extent) but the helper shares in the consequences of failure.
The core abilities: Auspex, Potence, Fortitude and Celerity are part of being a vampire. They are no longer disciplines. You spend blood, you get automatic successes I’m the relevant check. The number of dots depends on your age (as a Vampire, not a moral). Needless to say, a fledgling begins with one dot in each. Dots give you automatic success on checks involving relevant attributes:
- Auspex: perception,
- Potence: strength,
- Fortitutde: constitution,
- Celerity: dexterity.
- Volatus: special (see below)
Spending a blood point activates one of these for an entire scene. There are other benefits: Potence allows feats of strength, Fortitude reduces damage like armor, Auspex grants supernatural insight and Celerity grants inhuman speed.
Character creation involves choosing six Disciplines and three Flaws. Initial point allocation is done by spending a pool of experience, not the old way, which has serious balance issues.
These are the first few powers that your sire teaches you. After about six of these, a vampire has learned all that they can, at least until they absorb the powers of another vampire who has other powers. Each chosen discipline begins at one dot and can be increased by spending experience points. Borrow a list of disciplines from your favourite edition and remove all Bloodline-related limitations.
Each vampire has three flaws that are inherited from their sire. Borrow from your favorite edition and remove all Bloodline associations. A character could have no reflection, be repelled by holy symbols and gain a bestial trait after each frenzy.
- Bestial trait after each frenzy
- More easily prone to frenzy
- Permanent derangement
- Monstrous appearance
- Enraptured by the senses
- Can only drink a specific kind of blood
- No reflection
- Must sleep in native soil
- Painful kiss
- Only enter a home if invited
- Repelled by holy symbols
- Cannot cross running water
- Huge, hideous teeth
The older the vampire, the more powerful. This is measured in exponential years. Something like this (ballpark, untested and sloppy first try):
- 10 fledgling
- 50 neonate
- 100 prime
- 300 elder
- 700 ancient
As they age, their Auspex, Potence, Celerity and Fortitude increase by a dot. So a 50 year old vampire would have 2 dots in each of these powers.
New core ability: Volatus.
- Spider Climb: can safely cling to and climb on any surface, in any orientation, even upside down. Both hands must be free
- Feather Fall: can safely float down from any height.
- Great Leap: can leap or jump great distances.
- Hovering: can slowly hover or glide. Requires both hands free to navigate and keep balance.
- Flight: can fly as freely and as quickly as they can run.
So that’s the quick-n-dirty of it. That’s how I’d re-make a Vampire role-playing game. Maybe I’ll make a 2-page hack that folks could use with their favourite edition. Or not, I dunno, I’m only doing this for fun.