GURPS – Vampire the Masquerade

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World of Darkness Vampire

Vampire the Masquerade is scary!

Introduction the Intention

World of Darkness is a dramatic horror game system. As my Wikipedia Historians tell me, it started with Vampire the Masquerade. It spawned off other systems such as Changeling the Dreaming, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Mage the Ascension and Wraith the Oblivion. Their naming convention seems to be [Subject] the [Pretty Word]. In reverence for this naming structure, my topics will follow a similar design.

World of Darkness has gained quite a bit of popularity throughout the years. Many writers base concepts off of it and video games have spawned from it. I have played Vampire the Masquerade (And Requiem) quite a few times. I also lamented that I can’t find a group playing Changeling the Dreaming. It’s popularity has also led to individuals seeking to port it to GURPS.

It’s typical of gamers to want to convert a system over to GURPS. The forums are littered with posts asking how someone would do the conversions. People read through a game and give advice how to model one medium to the other. They quote stats, dice rolls, create new advantages and often end up with a heaping mess. There is good reason for this.

Game designers have a goal in mind when they design a system. The game play often is modeled around their envisioned theme. Much of their mechanics are not meant to represent reality. They don’t have expert physicists, historians, mathematicians and other sources checking over everything to make sure it’s kosher. Things get even more strange when you add metaphysical constructs. World of Darkness is no different.

This article is an alternate look at system conversions through a working example of Vampire the Masquerade (Requiem?). Instead of doing a straight port, we examine how to use GURPS strengths to play a genre or setting we all love.

For those of you using 3rd Edition GURPS, there’s already an official book for that. I won’t comment on how well it does the job. I have not touched 3rd Edition GURPS since 1996. The goal is to work with GURPS 4th Edition, so let’s get started.

Goal the Concept

50s Vampires

I was a vampire before it was cool!

Before anyone begins looking at numbers, dice rolls, statistics and other concepts, start with the goal. The goal is the driving force your game wants to permeate. The goal is the blurb you read on the back cover of a gaming book. Every game system has some introduction to the idea found in the book. This should be what you’re trying to convert to GURPS. All the rules and mechanics are simply there to support that goal. If you stick to rules as numbers and mechanics in a genre you will invent advantages and traits to mimic the game you are playing!

If you want to play with the exact rolling methods and mechanisms of your source game, just play -that- game. There is no point to turn everything into new advantages, disadvantages and skills when GURPS likely covers the ideas in it’s own language. This is why a goal is necessary, not mechanics.

Vampire the Masquerade is my chosen example to illustrate this point. I will bring the spirit of the game play over, not the rolls. Examining various introduction text for Vampire the Masquerade, the reader is instilled with the genre’s ideas right away. In fact, the 1999 Revised book starts with a single word paragraph. It simply says “Vampires”. I could work with that, but I think it’s safer to keep reading. After all, Twilight had “vampires” too.

The idea of what the game entails becomes more clearer as you read down the paragraphs. The reader is given dismal descriptions of the dark vampire. It incites carnal concepts as well as demented ideas. It dissipates myths the audience might have about vampires. The manual teaches us about the beasts within and the monster without. The book also makes clear this is not a heroic role playing experience. This helps paint the portrait of what the vampire is. It’s certainly not Dingbat and the Creeps.

To summarize the player is expected to wrestle with the vampire condition and society. It begins with the embrace and ends with the Jyhad.

This gives us a firm grasp of the player we’re expected to follow. As a person porting a system over to GURPS one should place the goal over precise mechanics. It’s simply to refer back to these goals whenever the question of conversions arises. If you have to choose how to represent something, does it help or hinder the goal of the game play? If you are stuck looking up tables so numbers correspond -exactly- to your source game, that might end up hindering more than helping the goal.

Rules the Guideline

When modeling a game in GURPS it’s often best to first consider if GURPS models the theme better. While people might remember their time in games with nostalgia, this sometimes clouds the goal. Any rule you find in the original game should not just be blindly converted to GURPS. Always keep in mind your goal and theme. As long as you keep those themes alive then it doesn’t need exact conversion. It may be better for the lack of exact conversion. For example, if you are playing a fantasy setting based on D20 do we need advantages to represent leveling? Take the rules in the system as a guideline for expressing their world. You have many tools to do the same with GURPS.

The focus is Vampire the Masquerade to create an example how GURPS may model concepts better than the source. The theme has been clearly defined. With the goal in mind the necessary rules for play need only be modeled.

The core of Vampire the Masquerade is the vampire. A list of traits that define what separates these vampires from others must be defined. GURPS has vampires written as well, but they do not model Vampire the Masquerade.

I present the list of general concepts before with bullet points for quick reference.

  • Undead Traits
  • The Embrace
  • Weaknesses to Sunlight, Fire and Supernatural Sources
  • Torpor and Staking
  • Frenzy and Rottweiler [sic]
  • Regeneration and Healing
  • Blood and Effects of Blood
  • The Thirst
  • Blush of Life/Appearing Alive
  • Blood Bond
  • Diablerie
  • Generations
  • Humanity
  • Disciplines
  • Bloodlines/Clans

Successfully modeling these systems will give the feeling of Vampire the Masquerade. Every concept above is important to establish game play that permeates the goal of the game. It may not function the same as Vampire the Masquerade. This is intentional since we players are not in that system. Instead of porting over every rule simply follow these guidelines to successfully port a system to GURPS. Let’s see how to form a workable template.

Immortality

Immortality is rather simplistic notion. The vampire will not wither and die with age. The vampire may also survive mortal injury. Unconsciousness and pain are still very real concepts to the vampire. A vampire can be incapacitated as usual like a mortal. Vampire the Masquerade has it’s own rules for injury and unconsciousness. There is no need to mimic them. GURPS does them better (At least we think so or we wouldn’t be playing GURPS).

The template should include Unaging (B.95). This makes a vampire immune to magical aging as well as natural. Lethal damage beyond unconsciousness is said to place a vampire in Torpor. If a vampire suffers aggravated damage they die after being incapacitated. The idea that aggravated damage (sunlight, fire and supernatural weapons) is the only way to kill them might be the first thought. However it states total body destruction and decapitation also ensures death. Total body destruction is represented by -HPx10.

Start with Unkillable 1 (B.95). This will ensure a vampire does not die before total body destruction. Then apply Achilles Heel limitation with the effects outlined as aggravated damage. The sun, fire and supernatural attacks are very common. Vampires deal with other vampires, the sun comes up every day and starting a fire is pretty easy. People do not need to know these can kill you to determine it’s very common. It just has to be readily available if they do.

Torpor is a difficult concept to manage. This is being Incapacitated in GURPS terms for an extended period. Vampires may recover after these periods as usual. It might be tempting to follow the rules of injury to the letter of Vampire the Masquerade. This is not ideal for GURPS. The spirit of the rule is lethal damage drops a vampire but does not kill them.

Therefore invent another limitation Torpor. At -HPx5 the Vampire falls into Torpor. The body cannot continue to function but it’s not dead. This limitation is rated as something reasonable, probably -10%.

Undead Traits

Bite Me

I get it! It’s a vampire!

This is where the books of Vampire the Masquerade are clear but may not follow a realistic view. It reaffirms my earlier point that GURPS may handle situations better than the game in question. For example, vampires seem to suffer less bashing damage in Vampire the Masquerade. Dividing damage into Bash, Lethal and Aggravated is often something games do. There’s this imagination that clubs, fists, kicks and other methods of injury are less than lethal. GURPS doesn’t follow this viewpoint. Many individuals have been killed in a few punches, maybe even one!

Add Injury Tolerance (Unliving) (B.60) to represent their resistance to most mundane forms of injury. Considering vitals such as kidneys, lungs and other organs do not offer improved damage against vampire, add Injury Tolerance (No Vitals). Staking the heart is a separate matter handled below.

Vampires are also resilient against toxins, diseases and similar effects. Use Resistant (Immunity, Metabolic Hazards) (B.80) as the basis for this. However, it seems that some metabolic hazards present in blood might affect a vampire when they feed. This appears to be a metaphysical traits. Adding a 5% Limitation “Except In Drank Blood” to Resistant will likely be enough. It’s infrequent enough to possibly a nuisance effect.

Vampires don’t eat or drink traditional food, so simply add Doesn’t Eat or Drink (B.50). They don’t breathe so add Doesn’t Breathe (B.50). They do sleep, however, and it’s even worse than than sleeping. Vampires are forced to sleep when the sun is out! Divine Curse(“You must sleep during the day”) (B.132) likely satisfies this contingency. This does mean vampires are not immune to magical effects that cause sleep.

Vampires don’t tire from running, or exertion. They can use extra effort but this requires blood (More on that later). Reading GURPS Zombies (P.67) shows a feature that can be added to the template, No Fatigue. It’s 0-point because they can use extra effort and they are not immune to fatigue draining effects, at least not supernatural ones.

Add supernatural features that would startle someone who examined a vampire. Supernatural Feature (Temporary, No Body Heat) (B.157), Supernatural Feature (Temporary, Pallor) (B.157), Supernatural Feature (Temporary, No Pulse) (Horror.26) will complete the package. These are all temporary because a vampire can spend blood to mask these features. Feeding might also mask them to a degree. They only apply when a vampire is caught off guard.

Don’t take High Pain Threshold because vampires do feel pain. As they are injured in the game they take negative penalties. It’s also spoken of in various Vampire the Masquerade sources. Though some vampires might have this trait anyway, it’s not universal by any means.

Vampires can suffer frost bite and burn in extreme temperatures. Temperature Tolerance (B.93) is a must. This can be extended with a few more levels of Temperature Tolerance limited with Costs Fatigue.

Weaknesses

The vampire takes Aggravated damage from fire, sunlight and supernatural sources. Supernatural sources may be magical rituals, other supernatural entities as well as some holy effects. The vampire is also affected by True Faith.

Being affected by True Faith is a quirk according to Power Ups Quirks.

Sunlight burns a vampire from exposure and rapidly. This is represented with a very common Weakness (B.161) disadvantage. Aggravated damage is not more deadly to a vampire, but it does negate their ability to heal quickly. It will also kill them which is covered under Unkillable.

Vampires have a phobia against fire as well as a phobia against sunlight. This is referred to as Rottbiscuit [sic]. Exposure or threats with these substances causes a vampire to panic! The phobia is not mutually exclusive with the disadvantages imposed by the damage sources. Add Pyrophobia (B.150) and Heliophobia (B.150).

Staking is often an Achilles Heel for Unkillable in a classic vampire. Vampire the Masquerade treats it far differently. A stake to the heart causes Torpor. We could rule that it is an instant Torpor effect, but pricing something to be an instant incapacitating condition is difficult. However, going with the GURPS Zombie treatment of “Instant Kill” effects, we could rule this simply Vulnerability with x4 injury. If the attack does enough damage the vampire will be in Torpor according to the defined limitation of Unkillable.

According to GURPS Horror attacking the heart is a -5 target modifier. A simple rule making it an Uncommon for a hard to hit location with a stake is likely good enough.

Blood

Drink Blood!

Delicious Vitamin B!

Don’t give vampires a Dependency to blood or Draining. They do not actually need blood to function. The rules clearly show without feeding a vampire doesn’t die. Instead a vampire will frenzy. They still clearly crave blood. They also can spend blood for extra effort as well as empowering abilities.

To simulate blood it’s obvious first it must be quantified. Energy Reserves from GURPS Powers (P.119) is perfect for this. It’s essentially an outside source of fatigue points. We can start a vampire off with 10 Blood Points, and elders can buy this pool up to larger quantities. Looking at the limitations for the Energy Reserves, refueling is -70% limitation and -80% means it bleeds one per second. Considering vampires bleed one point per day then -75% is a happy medium. This will also include draining from Vampiric Bite is part of the limitation.

The only way a vampire can fill that pool is feeding. When a vampire feeds they fill their blood pool with harm to the victim. Add Vampiric Bite (B.96) to represent the fangs and feeding. Since vampires can heal energy with blood points anyway, simply allow vampires to store the blood as FP or heal HP.

To complete the package of blood give a vampire Uncontrollable Appetite (Blood) (B.159). This disadvantage is likely to have modifiers based upon how much blood the vampire has had recently. For quick numbers simply take the blood pool like Fatigue. At 0 gives a -10 modifier. The vampire is pretty much a hungry beast. At less than one third give a -5. You might offer a bonus modifer to offset the negative modifiers if the blood pool is close to full.

Vampire Feats

There are feats common to every Vampire. They can heal injury, increase physical abilities and spend blood to appear Human. Building these abilities is rather simple process.

For the ability to appear Human and mask inspection I could look into cosmetic advantages. Certainly Alternate Form and the like would mask the negative traits. However we already mitigated the disadvantages as temporary. Since generally drinking blood would suffice to hide Supernatural Features, I could simply say spending the blood is part of the temporary limitation of the advantages. In that case it’s likely a 0 point feature “Can mask signs of undeath with blood”.

Extra effort comes for free with the blood pool. There’s no need to add extra rules. GURPS Zombies outlines this even clearer on page 67 under “No Fatigue”. Since the pool was bought from 0. A vampire cannot spend fatigue for Extra effort, but blood pool is fine.

Increasing attributes is as simple as buying them as limited with costs fatigue. Since vampires spend fatigue per level simply use Variable, Costs Fatigue for the attribute as outlined in GURPS Powers (P.101). This will allow vampires to increase HT, DX and ST.  Also add Link +20% enhancement (B.107). This allows the vampire to increase all three attributes together or one at a time. Purchase the maximum level of the attribute bonus.

Vampires recover from all damage faster than mortals in general, even aggravated damage. Add Regeneration (Slow) (B.80) as a base. Vampire the Masquerade says aggravated damage requires blood to heal a single box of injury. GURPS is far more detailed for hit points. Generally the time it takes to recover at one point per 12 hours means the vampire would have lost blood for daily survival anyway.

On top of this regeneration add another Regeneration (Very Fast) (B.80). This has Costs Fatigue 1 limitation for 1 second use. This means 1 blood point can be converted into 1 hit point. Also add the limitation Bane (Horror P.18). This is priced as Very Common as sunlight has the highest common form of injury for the vampire. This means a vampire may heal all injuries except those that would be aggravated. If it’s aggravated the 1 HP per 12 hours applies.

Blood Bond

Vampire love Songs

Written after a blood bond.

The blood bond happens when an individual drinks a vampire’s blood. It takes three separate drinks to complete a blood bond. Each drink further improves the bond. The mechanics of the Blood Bond violates what GURPS considers reasonable. The idea that there is no resistance roll to mental domination is absurd.  There are rules to struggle against the blood bond, but they work opposite of GURPS. The effect is indefinite with only struggles to resist temporarily. GURPS would have it resisted or become indefinite. This is an example where modeling a mechanic as written fails across systems.

As said previously, examine the goal of the game. The spirit of a blood bonding is a willful hold over an individual that lasts quite awhile. It creates thralls (sometimes unwanted) of which the vampire has complete hold over. It’s possible to model this concept without the need to deny an individual resistance.

Begin with Mind Control (B.68). GURPS Powers outlines a drug version of Mind Control that would have Blood Agent (B.110). This matches the idea a victim needs ingest the blood. It would also have Independent (Powers P.61) since the effect lasts without the vampire’s attention. Add Extended Duration (B.150) for +150%. It’s not truly permanent and anything above x1000 is likely to be the same price to balance. Since 1 minute is roughly x45,000 permanent models the multiplier.

Next is must be made difficult to resist to be effective. Add Reliable (Power Ups 4 – Enhancements P.16) for +5 to +10 on the quick contest. This represents horrendous odds of resisting the effects. Finally add No Rule of 16 (Power Ups 4 – Enhancements P.7) to really make the Mind Control stick. Costs Fatigue 1 (B.111) means it takes 1 blood point to create the bond.

The part of the blood bond that is difficult to quantify is the three drinks rule. This simply can be ignored for the sake of gameplay, but if an individual wishes to follow as closely as possible then a guideline for pricing must be established.

Onset (B.113) seems like a suitable limitation. However, it’s not quite as ineffective as Onset due to the fact you get lesser control after three drinks.  There is also the problem that it may not reach full power if the victim skips drinks after the first. That is substantially limiting as a vampire may not get another shot. Considering a lesser form of Mind Control that affects emotional state is -60% this is a bottom line for the limitation.  Following the concept of a variable trait, being in the middle of -60% and full power would place it -30%. This also matches the price of a day of onset.  Add a limitation “Variable, 3 Daily Doses -30%”. This means an individual needs 3 doses on separate days to increase the effect of the Mind Control to it’s full potential.

Finally we add a 0% Feature on the advantage “Infectious.” This makes the attack the means by which another feature is it can infect other dead bodies. Since the dead body does not become an ally it’s not an advantage. Since you essentially choose who becomes infected, it’s not exactly Infectious Attack. Thus it is merely a feature.

The result is a very costly advantage, and well it should be! Affecting an individual with a blond bond ends up making them a slave and for a massive duration. This works on simpletons and powerful vampires alike. A wise individual will stay well away from a vampire’s blood ingestion. Then again, vampires might use this to form pacts of trust with one another. I’ve certainly seen that gamed in Vampire the Masquerade.

Generations

Generations (Blood Potency in Vampire the Requiem) represent potential power. For Vampire the Masquerade it improves the amount of blood pool a vampire may have. It limits the disciplines and stat points a vampire may purchase. It also limits the amount of blood a vampire can spend per turn.

Many of these concepts are little more than taboo traits in GURPS. Blood pool is a separate advantage. Limiting the amount of blood spent would be a quirk at best. Attributes and statistics purchased are also points outside of a generation. At best this might be a meta trait including increased blood pool, which may not be ideal. A GM might allow this to be a power talent for use in disciplines, doubling as an Unusual Background that improves the limitations of purchase on traits for 0 additional points.

If the talent route is chosen simply call it Blood Talent at 5 points per level. A vampire can have levels from 1 to 10. 1 being 13th generation and 10 being 3rd generation. This would improve rolls for any invoked power and increase the limitation on purchased traits.

Frenzy and Rottthingy [sic]

This is a fight or flight response within a vampire. It has a poetic nuance in Vampire the Masquerade, but this changes little about it’s nature. Berserk disadvantage handles frenzy quite well. Rottencheck [sic] is handled under phobias which force rolls on the Fright Table. Horror outlines alternate methods of handling fright.

Diablerie

This is the ability for a vampire to eat a soul, especially of another vampire. Diablerie exists as the only means for vampires to raise generation potency. It’s the very source of the Jyhad. Younger vampires want to eat the older vampires. The problem is how do you quantify eating a soul and how do you put this into gaming terms?

At first this ability may seem potent. You are sucking character points out of an enemy and distributing to yourself. However, reading the description of Diablerie it essentially is a plot point. It requires having sucked all the blood out of your enemy. To accomplish that feat you need to suck all their hit points away with Vampiric Bite. After they are dead, Diablerie is done to the corpse.

The vampire then draws in the soul, at least the idea of it. This has the positive effect of gaining a rank or so in generation if the enemy was stronger. It has the negative effect of leaving a supernatural mark of the vampire. The vampire might also gain enemies.

Based on these ideas this trait really has no value. Any benefit it has is pretty much balanced with it’s criminal nature. It may even be a disadvantage if someone performs diablerie. After all, sucking the soul out of a corpse may not have much affect on game play if they were weaker, but it certainly makes you unpopular.

Add the feature “Can commit diablerie.” It is likely required to purchase Blood Talent. A GM might allow someone to go negative in points, or a character might have points to spend to improve their talent.

Humanity the Derangement

Lost Boys

Back when vampires were just movie jerks.

Humanity is the great equalizer for vampires. It affects a bit of play encouraging vampires to keep their Humanity high. It also something difficult to maintain as you walk around a monster. It’s popular for people to try to represent Humanity as advantages and disadvantages in GURPS. Why inject a morality system mechanic into GURPS when it already exists?

You see, Humanity is not simply a trait of Vampires. Every Human in World of Darkness also has Humanity. It’s the moral difference between good little girls and wretched she-demons. In that sense it’s likely a mechanic everyone falls under. GURPS Horror has outlines on how derangement can be handled. Players accrue corruption based on choices and actions. After so many the GM reflects these points on a character as disadvantages. This can mean more murderous behavior, self control rolls changing, new psychological disadvantages and even supernatural changes. At max corruption simply make the character a mindless beast in disadvantages and make them roll another!

There is no need to add Humanity itself into GURPS. Anytime someone refers to Humanity you simply are speaking about how corrupt an individual is or how close they are to becoming a mindless beast.

Disciplines the Overpowered

Disciplines are little more than powers. Some cost blood and others require rolls to activate. Really converting each discipline is not too much work. Blood Talent will add to rolls and possibly determine the maximum potency of disadvantages a character can spend points on. I won’t define the exact formula for figuring the maximum points. A GM could certainly make it simply no power may have more character points than the total points spent on Blood Talent or something like this.

However, every Discipline should have a power modifier Vampiric -5%. This represents the fact that some disciplines counter each other and other outside supernatural forces may counter them.

Bloodlines the Sanguine Mess

Bloodlines, clans or whatever a vampire wants to call them are sub mutations. They are templates that have their own strengths and weaknesses. GMs can cobble these up over the basic template rather easy. Use the clan weaknesses and strengths. There may be some attribute modifiers of discipline limitations. Otherwise this isn’t much harder than any other Meta-trait.

Vampire the Template

Everything has been laid out according to design. It’s time to put it all together into a single block of template values. Follow the posts above and craft the template. This will create the base design for the vampire. A GM should give more points on top of the base vampire to purchase a clan and color the character.  Characters may be able to alter some traits from the average template. That is up to GM discretion.

This hopefully has shown how a vampire can be placed in GURPS. There was very little added rules beyond two limitations. This template is ready for play as is and players don’t need a new book or much of Vampire the Masquerade to see how it works.

Conclusion the Finally

A person bringing a system from one game to another should only take over the important parts that help craft the imagery. This working example with vampires helps set a guideline for GMs to work with conceptually. If you find yourself trying to hard mimic the system this is likely a symptom of not understand what’s being ported. While my selection for choices may not match everyone’s exactly, and I may have left a few things out, that does not make it a terrible template. It sets the stage to be played  according to the driving forces of the game.

Some games may be more thought provoking for transportation. Mechanics can often be deeply twisted in per system mechanics. I’ve seen RPGs that use Jenga towers. If you try to port with “GURPS first” mentality this should not be a problem.

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