The fifth edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, the classic tabletop role-playing game first released in 1991, is set to launch later this week. In light of several public controversies surrounding the game’s development, publisher White Wolf has elected to create a revised version of the core rulebook. Vampire will now feature a new foreward that doubles as an explicit content warning, as well as a detailed appendix full of strategies for players dealing with mature themes at the table.
The change comes just days before the physical product is due to go on sale at the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana, which opens Aug. 2. While the initial print run will remain unchanged, digital versions of the book will include this new content. Those who purchase a physical copy will also be able to download the additional content for free.
Vampire is a pen-and-paper tabletop RPG in which players take on the role of vampires in a modern-day setting. White Wolf’s issues with this fifth edition began last year when, in an early playtest version of the game, one of its characters was interpreted by many to be a pedophile. The situation escalated earlier this month when a story widely circulated online accused the publisher of purposefully marketing its products to consumers who align with neo-Nazi and white-supremacist ideology. White Wolf responded to strenuously deny those claims.
A new content warning, applied to page one of the digital document, is unflinching in its stance against fascism and in favor of a mature gaming experience that tackles tough issues.
The foreward from this new version reads as follows:
For the past several decades, Vampire: The Masquerade has addressed the darkness in the real world through horror stories: it has talked about AIDS, capitalist exploitation, sexual predation, the resurgence of far-right political extremism, religious fanaticism, state and private surveillance, and many other issues. This version of the game does not shy away from any of the above, and we believe exploration of subjects like these is as valid in roleplaying games as it is in other media. Including a problematic subject in a Storytelling game is not the same as glorifying it, and if you take the chance to explore it critically, it can be the exact opposite. If we understand the problems facing us, we are better armed to fight them.
[Vampire’s fifth edition] includes in-world references and expressions of the following: sexual violence, political extremism, physical violence and gore, mind control, torture, abuse, imprisonment and kidnapping, racism, sexism, and homophobia, to name a few. It’s a game about monsters. ...
But it is only a game.
Don’t use it as an excuse to be a monster yourself.
In addition to this new content warning, the new version of Vampire goes a step further by adding to the core rulebook an extensive appendix entitled “Advice for Considerate Play.” This section includes strategies common among many other modern role-playing games, including ways for players to state clear boundaries and take control of the situation if they no longer feel comfortable with what’s going on in their game.
This appendix did not exist prior to Polygon’s playtest of Vampire, one that included a simulated sexual assault. At the time, White Wolf producer Jason Carl said that this information was slated for a separate, paid release. Now it appears that at least some of that content is being included in the core rulebook.
Again, White Wolf is explicit about why this section was added in the new foreward on page one.
Someone at your table is not familiar with this game. Someone at your table has dealt with some of these issues in real life. Someone at your table wants to know that you read this warning and know you will be considerate to them as players, while putting their character through the wringer.
In the Appendix, you will find concrete techniques on how to handle difficult subjects in your game in a manner that is respectful to your players and their experiences. Calibrate beforehand which techniques your group wants to use. People have different needs and not every method works for every person.
The appendix includes such topics as “Fascism in Play” and “Sexual Violence in Games,” and encourages open communication and the discussion of consent. It ends with a short bibliography, referring readers to additional resources where they can learn more about those issues.
For more on Vampire: The Masquerade, read our feature story highlighting a session of the near-final game.