Games Design - Hot War - the Masquerade

Posted by: Rich Stokes On: Mar 10th 2010 edited

I've been running a game of Vampire: the Masquerade for some time using the system from Hot War. It was an idea I had and punted a few ideas around with some buddies and before long we had a working set of conversion rules, which are presented here for everyone to see.

Basically, it's the same rules as a regular Hot War game with a couple of tweaks. The main thing is Disciplines:

Characters will start play with access to your their three Clan disciplines. Write down what they are. You start with three points in one of them and one point each in the other two. Basically, you pick which one you want to be really good at, and then two others to dabble at. If you really want, (and everyone agrees that it's OK) you can swap one of your one-point disciplines for another freely-available discipline which it makes sense for a character of your sect and Clan to have learned.

For your one-point disciplines, you get access to the first two of the discipline's abilities. You get access to the first 5 powers of the discipline you have 3 points in, so you sort of get the equivalent of 9 points of disciplines. A character with one point in Protean, for example will be able to use Eyes of the Beast and Feral Claws, while a character with five points in Dementation will be able to use the Passion, Haunting, Eyes of Chaos, Voice of Madness and Total Insanity powers.

When a character wants to use a Discipline in a conflict, simply add a number of dice to that character's dice pool equal to the rating of the discipline being used, and colour the narration accordingly. The player also marks that Discipline as Exhausted, meaning that it cannot be used again until it is re-charged. A character can only gain dice from one Discipline in any given Conflict.

Players can also include the use of a Discipline at any time outside of a conflict as colour to the narration, or use them in the narration of conflicts without gaining the extra dice from them. If they do this, they do not Exhaust the Discipline.

Basically, you must Exhaust a discipline to gain dice from it during a conflict.

For example, Abraham is trying to convince a group of gang members to leave the area. It's a fairly straightforward Influence conflict, with both sides bringing in relevant Traits, Relationships and Agendas to increase their dice pools. The player can narrate Abraham using his Presence, and everyone agrees that it will be helpful in this conflict. Which is handy because he has 3 points in it, so adds 3 dice to his dice pool and Exhausts Abraham's Presence.

Another example. Maria is an urban Gangrel who uses her high Protean to assume the form of a fox (This seems more appropriate than a wolf for a character living in London, and since everyone agrees, that's how it works for her). She's trying to sneak into an old bus station without being spotted. Her player narrates Maria transforming into a fox, but since her Protean Discipline is already exhausted from an earlier scene she won't get any extra dice for it. Instead, she opts to Exhaust her Obfuscate for a bonus die, which is a pretty obvious Discipline to use anyway.

Yet another example. Julia is a Nosferatu and looking to visit a mortal who she wants to question. Obviously she'll be using her Obfuscate power Mask of a Thousand Faces while she talks to him, otherwise he'll run a mile. She doesn't need to exhaust her obfuscate, since her looking like a normal person isn't a conflict.

A character can recharge an exhausted discipline by spending a single point of consequences after a conflict, provided the outcome of that conflict might result in them feeding. You can recharge as many disciplines as you have consequences to spend. If a character wants to explicitly feed, you should frame a scene where they attempt to feed and run a conflict. They can spend consequences to recharge their Disciplines. In other circumstances, a character will explicitly feed as part of a scene or part of another conflict. In these cases the GM should decide whether the vampire's Disciplines recharge or not (basically, if they just drink a bit of blood, no, if they drink a lot, then yes).

You can find a more thorough write up of the conversion here:

Comments and feedback appreciated!


Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Mar 11th 2010

That's great Rich, thanks for posting such a detailed write-up. Would you mind if I posted a link to your Googledoc on the CGS website? I'm sure there are many people out there who would be interested in this.

Not knowing much about Vampire, I really cant speak to the mechanical elements and how they compare with the original game. However, I'd be really keen to hear how things are at the table. How have people been reacting to the game, are their old-school Vampire players in your group (well, apart from you, obviously) and how do they react to the game as you present it?


Posted by: Rich Stokes On: Mar 11th 2010

Malc, yeah, you can absolutely link to the doc from the CGS site! I'll probably update the doc every now and then when new things come up.

My home group have been playing an ongoing game for a few sessions. Of the four players, two have never played V:tM and the other two have played a bit some years ago. None of us (except me, ha ha) has ever been what you'd call a hardcore V:tM fan. We've all played Hot War before and are used to the way it forces character driven stuff, and inter-player conflict, so that probably helps us "get" how this works.

I ran a game as a one-shot at the Portsmouth RPG Club over the weekend, and that time had 3 pretty hardcore players out of 4. Everyone seemed to get into the swing of it pretty easily, and we reached very dark conclusion after 4 hours of play, although without any PCs getting killed (Boo!). I got the impression that people felt that it was quite effortless to get into conflicts with each other, because the bounds of the conflicts were quite clearly defined. For example, two characters were arguing over restitutions for damaged property. The players commented that they knew they could really go at it with no fear of misinterpretation, because the system would sort out the outcome.

Another thing which the experienced Vampire players have noted is that there are two areas of the original game which this makes no attempt to model. Namely a character's Generation and their Humanity.

Generation was always a weak point in the original game, since it effectively set an impenetrable glass ceiling for player characters. Basically, you will never reach a position of power because those positions are already taken by people who'll always be better at everything than you. So everyone agreed that was probably for the best.

Humanity was one of those things which many groups ignored the mechanics for, but incorporated into the fiction of their games. That is, in my experience, characters always either had a fairly high humanity and acted like fairly reasonable and morally ordinary people, or they were utter sociopaths. Playing an utter sociopath is what a lot of people want to do, and the Paths of Enlightenment which appeared basically made it possible for players to play characters like that who were still functional. Once you've got an opt-out to the Humanity mechanics, you might as well not bother, to be honest. If players want to engage with that aspect of the setting then creating a negative relationship with The Beast (or something like that) might work quite nicely. But the other problem with the Humanity mechanics were that while one man's descent into a bestial state and the loss of his humanity is a potentially interesting story, four people sitting around the table moping about how it's hard bearing the curse of Caine sounds like shitty fan-fic, so go easy on that.

Posted by: Gary Bowerbank On: Mar 18th 2010

As I've mentioned to you, but for the purpose of opening it to public debate, I'm interested in how the Disciplines work (as easy access to more dice) and how that tips things in the system.

Do you find that people constantly reach for a discipline? They arguably *should* - they're vampires with kewl powerz (something the old game almost discouraged with its high blood cost in some areas) - more importantly does this result in Consequences from winning a conflict going on refreshing the Discipline? (So overall, you have more dice, but you end up spending the extra "wins" on getting your powers back.)

With more dice available (everything you'd normally get in Hot War and then Disciplines on top) do you get more dramatic results? I often find in my games, conflicts are won by merely one level, sometimes it goes crazy and someone gets five consequences, but more often than not its one. Do the bigger pools mean bigger consequences? Or does a 3 dice bonus not really swing things? (Especially if both sides are bringing out the Disciplines.)



Posted by: Rich Stokes On: Mar 20th 2010

Good question.

Having run several sessions (with a couple of different groups of players), the players just seem not to use Tools. In fact, I'll probably revise the text to exclude regular tools. This is a game about vampires after all, it's not Tom Clancy.

Players seem to view the disciplines as risky. If you fail the roll, you have no Consequences to use to unlock the Disciplines. So there's a chance that you'll exhaust a Discipline now and need it later.

If both sides in a conflict are using disciplines you generally find they tend to even out, or one player has an edge over another. The Ventrue yuppie should have the edge over the Gangrel gypsy when it comes to social conflicts purely because of their Presence and Dominate if nothing else. Which pretty much fits how things ought to be.

Posted by: Gary Bowerbank On: Apr 3rd 2010

Is there any way for characters to gain mwar disciplines? In the old system, your way of getting up the ladder was to eat someone further upthe food chain and take their stuff. Could a 9 point agenda to Eat my Sire result in an additional Discipline, or the level of one or more Disciplines increasing (via Consequences)?

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