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Vampire Retrospective: Craig Oxbrow

Posted on March 5, 2012 by Flames

The Vampire Retrospective Project continues today with an essay from Craig Oxbrow. Craig tells us about his experiences with Vampire: the Masquerade 1st Edition.

I was waiting for Vampire: The Masquerade.

    I had been playing and GMing roleplaying games since I was eleven or twelve, and I’d always wanted more focus on the players’ characters than most RPGs and adventures encouraged. Too many missions where it didn’t really matter what you were like as long as you could pick locks or use a sniper rifle. I was approaching seventeen and already jaded.

    Vampire looked different. (It was just Vampire back then, no less.) I had seen the press ads in gaming magazines, and in particular the glossy promotional booklet a few months earlier hinting at the setting, the style and the things to come. I was pretty much sold on the game by then. Chris McDonough’s cover image of the rose on marble stood out from everything else on the shelves at the time. It mentioned games focused on characters, the “personal horror” of being a vampire. It quoted Schopenhauer and The Cure alike. Not that I had read anything by Schopenhauer – I was sixteen, remember – but I knew a clever quote from someone they made documentaries about when I read one.

    It helped that I had always been interested in vampires. One Hallowe’en when I was four or five, I saw pictures of Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula for the first time, somehow already knowing the names. Line drawings of the classic Karloff and Lugosi versions. The Monster didn’t frighten me at all – he actually looked sort of sad – but Dracula did, because he looked like a man. A man in a cape with a widow’s peak, sure, but a man all the same. A regular guy. I could guess he could take the cape off and you wouldn’t look twice at him. He could be your neighbour. A monster hiding in plain sight. He wasn’t even purple, like the Count from Sesame Street.

    So after that, I read up on vampires alongside such other pressing matters as this week’s Doctor Who episode or Star Wars spin-off comic or what Judge Dredd was up to in 2000AD.

    I was looking for a reliable way to spot them. Just in case.

    And reading up on this diverse species of ruthless monsters, doomed romantics, and tragic somewhere-in-betweens, vampires became less frightening and more approachable… but never quite stopped being frightening. They were my introduction to supernatural horror as a genre alongside science fiction, fantasy and the like.

    So when that booklet arrived, and mentioned a character type based on Nosferatu and showed characters that wouldn’t look out of place in Near Dark, I knew I would have to get a copy of this game when it arrived.

    It didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was just about what I was looking for.

    It arrived loaded with ideas, for gaming in general as well as its own setting. From the notion of Clans explaining how one kind of vampire related to another, to the half page describing the mysterious death cult known as the Sabbat, from the idea of Golconda to Timothy Bradstreet’s full-page illustrations suggesting characters you could play and look cool doing it. This carried through to the introductory “adventure”, or “story,” Baptism Of Fire. Set at a party, with no-one to fight, but characters to argue with, debate politics, learn from, try to romance and more.

    This was what I had wanted from gaming all along, and now it was here.

    I even managed to persuade two of my friends to play it after a few weeks…

    Craig Oxbrow

    If you are interested in submitting an essay for the Vampire Retrospective Project please review the Submission Guidelines and let us know if you have any questions.

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