The Masquerade, Chapter 2

The chapter opens with exposition from that vampire history book mentioned in the previous one. It starts with a rather baffling passage about how vampires united into clans to survive against hunters. And, no, it’s not how it happened in VtM. Clans trace their origin to the thirteen ancient vampires. As long as you are connected to one of them by the chain of sires and aware about it, you are a part of a clan. That, however, is a minor nitpick compared to what comes next.

So, long story short, vampires invented a cure to most of their weaknesses. They no longer burn under the sun, they are no longer physically dead, so they can freely eat, drink and so on. Basically, they are not VtM vampires anymore, they are humans with superpowers and an addiction to blood.

Oh, and with the new advantage, Camarilla has destroyed Sabbath* because what is a conflict?

*For those who don’t know, Camarilla is basically a
vampire government protecting the status quo, and Sabbath is a rival
organization postulating that vampires should openly rule humans rather
than hiding in shadows.

Caitiffs proposed to help Camarilla in exchange for the cure and acceptance. Which would be nice and all if they were some kind of organization rather than a bunch of misfits with no real leaders. A specific group of caitiffs can potentially make such a proposal, but they can’t speak for all caitiffs.

We also learn what weaknesses they do have: silver, “sacred power” stored in crosses (not crucifixes, symmetric crosses. Crucifix is apparently just an accidentally suitable vessel for that energy) and holy water. Needless to say, all of that doesn’t apply in VtM, too. Symbols of faith don’t do anything, it’s the faith itself that matters, not even a specific religion. True believers are capable of harming vampires just by being who they are.

All of this really makes me wonder why even bother with VtM to begin with. Author has to destroy the setting in order to tell the story he wanted to tell, so what’s even the point of using it instead of coming up with something new? I honestly have no idea.

It’s not even that I object t changing the setting in principle. TRPGs are created to be changed in accordance to tastes of specific groups. But with changes so drastic, there is nothing to gain by tying the book to VtM. VtM is really not a good game for superpowerful assholes going around being kings of the world. It;s a game about losing your humanity bit by bloody bit and being horrified by it. It’s a game about immortal manipulators using you in their ancient schemes, about monsters who have shed humanity long ago lurking in the dark. And it’s a game about realizing that both monsters and manipulators are something you can become.

I really should spare that rant until later, but seriously, Pavel doesn’t have self-awareness necessary to be a good VtM character. He has no regrets. He has no self-doubt. He has no fear of the future. He is a bit antagonist for other characters to look at and despair of their own fate.

Moving on. Pavel wakes up and takes the cure up a vein, quickly destroying another aspect of the setting by saying that any disease would die inside vampire’s organism, so there is no need to use a sterile syringe. Nope, while vampires don’t get sick by virtue of being dead, they can serve as carriers just fine.

Oh, and he also has a tattoo showing how much cure is left in his system, which looks like a health bar. Comparisons to a video game have to wait until chapter four, however.

He goes to Sergei and bonds with him over a friendly spar, during which Sergei hits Pavel in a shoulder with a knife. Pavel quickly heals the wound.

We also confirm Sergei’s sociopathy. He had spent two years on Amazon river, “reliving the old days” by hunting down locals. He also comments on how surprisingly many locals there remains, just in case anyone was still doubting that he’s an asshole.

Sergei also promises to teach Pavel a few tricks because sharing arcane secrets is just something you do to solidify friendship. We then cut to the next scene in which Pavel name-drops various spell names like Hand of Ice and Spear of Dust. At this point I am pretty sure the author deliberately tries to destroy everything remotely original in the setting. You see, in VtM each clan has three disciplines. Some overlap, but for the most part they are unique, and while it’s possible to learn disciplines of other clans, those secrets are normally heavily guarded. Disciplines are also not exactly a mere collection of spells. Each of them has a theme, like brainwashing or animal control, and each theme is unique. It serves to maintain a diversity between clans: Nosferatu are creepy information brokers, Tremere are mages, Ventrue are politicians with powers over mind, etc. Naturally, that affects the structure of vampire society, plus it gives different characters their own niches in a group.

So, what I am saying is, messing with that aspect of VtM without a good reason is not a bright idea.

Though, granted, what’s described here is not completely impossible. Tremere, being a bunch of professional Mary Sues, have a functional magic system crammed into disciplines. They do actually have control over elements, necromancy substitute and pretty much everything you can think of. If you play as a Tremere, you actually can babble about various spells like Pavel does here. The problem is that they are also notoriously paranoid about sharing their secrets. Tremere is basically a society within a society, and they really don’t like to do anything that could lower their position, even when it’s good for Camarilla as a whole.

Anyway, learning new spells spends a lot of time slots, so it’s already evening, and Pavel heads to the dacha. There he bullshits to his parents about how he is requested by his superiors to keep an eye on a suspicious vampire. Parents are oddly calm and welcoming, considering how they parted yesterday. They notice a new scar on Pavel’s shoulder. His mother frets over it, and his father asks if it hurt and how he handled it, thus falling neatly into gender roles.


“They are not bad people, after all. When they forget their principles and remember who’s their family.”

I guess sociopathy is conditional, after all.

Elena looks away from the scene, proving to be the only remotely good person in the room. Pavel gets off on remembering humiliating her the day before because of course he does.

Pavel goes to his room, and his spider sense starts tingling, warning him of some vague danger. The danger turned out to be a vampire bursting through a window and attacking him. After a brief fight, the unknown vampire is revealed to be Ira, Pavel’s girlfriend, here to scold him for missing forth hunt with her (thus pretty openly implying he had at least three more incidents resulting in corpses).

They talk, he tells her what happened, she is impressed by him killing five people, he objects that the record among Malkavian apprentices is thirty five people killed in one go.

You know, Humanity system in VtM is often criticized for being too restricting and punishing, especially considering that the setting has some monsters who should have lost all their Humanity long time ago but didn’t because it would have prevented them from fulfilling their narrative functions. In particular, murder lowers your Humanity really fast and really low. Guess how much this information is relevant here.

After they finish their discussion, they have a race across the village, nearly invisible to normal people. Pavel eventually catches Ira, and they kiss.

I should note here that during the fight and the race Pavel and Ira are described by being on almost equal level. With Pavel, of course, having an edge over her.

The next scene is a flashback about how Pavel and Ira met for the first time. Apparently, they are studying vampire stuff under the same master, though in different groups. Because vampires are big on structured education. So they knew about each other for some time, but didn’t really interact. One day Pavel caught Ira as she tried and failed to fly from a supermarket window. She told him that she was running from a guy whom he enchanted with vampire magic to the point of obsession. For practice, you see. She couldn’t undo the spell, and she didn’t want to kill him, and her sire and master (different people) refused to help telling her she should figure it out on her own, so she was stuck with the situation until she learned more.

So now we know that Pavel and Ira deserve each other.

Then Pavel morphs into Edward and tells us how he couldn’t maintain relationships with normal humans because he now could see their thoughts and how shallow and pathetic their minds are. He also informs us that vampires either love forever or don’t love at all, and that he certainly loves Ira, and she loves him.

Credit where credit is due, the author managed to retell Twilight in one paragraph.

That would be all for this chapter. Sadly, no Alexei segment. Pretty sure the author has no idea what to do with him or simply isn’t interested. Shame, that. Those segments aren’t good, but at least they serve as a reprieve from being stuck in Pavel’s head.

8 Comments

  1. SpoonyViking says:
    I’d suggest putting the footnotes in the following paragraph, illhousen; putting them at the end of the “page”, as is standard, breaks the reading flow too much on a computer screen.
    1. Wright of Void says:
      I agree with this.
      1. illhousen says:
        Fair enough, fixed.
  2. GeniusLemur says:
    “Camarilla has destroyed Sabbath* because what is a conflict?”
    That’s easy. Conflict is something that gets in the way of an author kissing the ass of his Mary-Sue.
  3. the_whittler says:
    “Symbols of faith don’t do anything, it’s the faith itself that matters, not even a specific religion. True believers are capable of harming vampires just by being who they are.”

    Ah, True Faith: the most optimistic and hopeful game mechanic in such a bleak and cursed world.

    “Sergei also promises to teach Pavel a few tricks because sharing arcane secrets is just something you do to solidify friendship.”

    Is it too much to hope that the Tremere break down the door and give both Sergei and Pavel the final death for this? You don’t mess with arcane secrets, man.

    “Tremere is basically a society within a society, and they really don’t like to do anything that could lower their position, even when it’s good for Camarilla as a whole.”

    I think the Tremere are also notoriously paranoid with their secrets because without their arcane magic, they’d basically be whooped by the other vampires. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part to make them less Mary Sue-ish, but it does line up with their generally weak physical attributes. Thaumaturgy, which is just the poor vampiric substitution to the mage arts they once had, is a crutch.

    “They talk, he tells her what happened, she is impressed by him killing five people, he objects that the record among Malkavian apprentices is thirty five people killed in one go.”

    Forget about these monsters Humanity stat; WHY AREN’T THEY BEING PUT DOWN?! Why is no one from the Camarilla being sent to deal with them for constantly violating the Masquerade?! Why aren’t they surrounded by hunters with all the publicized killing that they do?! The title of the book is “The Masquerade”, right?

    1. illhousen says:
      “Is it too much to hope that the Tremere break down the door and give
      both Sergei and Pavel the final death for this? You don’t mess with
      arcane secrets, man.”

      Given how all vampires apparently know this stuff, I highly suspect Tremere have sold out at some point.

      Man, I’ve played a Tremere before it was cool.

      “I think the Tremere are also notoriously paranoid with their secrets
      because without their arcane magic, they’d basically be whooped by the
      other vampires. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part to make them less
      Mary Sue-ish, but it does line up with their generally weak physical
      attributes. Thaumaturgy, which is just the poor vampiric substitution to
      the mage arts they once had, is a crutch.”

      Well, they don’t have friends among other vampires, even more so than other clans, and they certainly have enemies. They worked hard on making themselves seem invaluable due to their power, and once this advantage disappears, it would be only natural for other vampires to rip them apart.

      “Forget about these monsters Humanity stat; WHY AREN’T THEY BEING PUT
      DOWN?! Why is no one from the Camarilla being sent to deal with them for
      constantly violating the Masquerade?! Why aren’t they surrounded by
      hunters with all the publicized killing that they do?! The title of the
      book is “The Masquerade”, right?”

      Oh, Pavel mentions that he “fulfills such and such rules of the Masquerade” (which was apparently formalized into some kind of big rulebook) when he calls for cleaning squads and such.

      To be fair, he doesn’t let anyone who’s seen his true nature live here, which technically does fall inside the masquerade rules. There is no mention of him looking for witnesses on the other hand, and what he does is incredibly wasteful at best and potentially threatens the secrecy, so a wise Prince would fry his ass anyway.

  4. Roarke says:
    I kind of liked the Sabbat just for their Embracing ritual of beating you half to death, then burying you deep underground so that you’d be rabid from thirst by the time you dug yourself out. It helped give the individual members a bit of sympathy.
    1. illhousen says:
      Sabbath had come a long way over editions from basically vampire orcs, here to be scary but killable, all the way to Camarilla 2.0, now with more murder.

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