Friday, July 28, 2017

Vampire 5th Edition Pre-Alpha Playtest Feedback (Playtest #1)

My Players

My first session-group was made up of my wife, a couple who have been playing in our Vampire: Dark Ages game for several months, and Ken (a veteran GM of many systems) whom I know through Pathfinder for the first playtest. I had each player find / bring a picture of their character to the game and awarded each one bonus Willpower or Composure for doing so (I didn't do this for the next two playtests).

(I did not create, photograph or own the rights to any of the following images, nor do I intend to monetize this post; all pictures were pulled from Google image search)

Andrea - Amelina

Ken - Bruno

Keith - Nicholas

Lydia - Amir


Despite the additional background I presented (and my players' extreme role-playing prowess) the way this scene was written came off as strange and stunted, as if it was written for a LARP rather than a table-top audience. I found myself adding elements to the cafe that weren't in the written scenario to give the players something else to focus on rather than directly on one another.

I described their nightly routine and how the recent anarch insurrection had blown that all to hell, but at least the all-night gambling hall seemed safe. If was a return to normalcy for them in a way.

After Bruno appeared I cut them off with a loud noise followed by cheering, someone had hit the jackpot in the other room. They all got a strange feeling in the pit of their stomach that they couldn't pin down as if all the joy just got sucked out of the room as the cheering died down.

Shortly after that came the news...

The PCs heeded the call to their blood and were unanimously on-board with heading into the fray to save their beloved.

The Siege Of Golden Gate

The PCs headed out the front door and saw the first police cordon a few blocks away. They decided to take the rooftops, so we made a few rolls and everyone made it across safely and quietly. One PC (Bruno maybe) took a few more turns to make it across the rooftops so I had him make a Stealth check when the helicopter came by and then let him finish his journey. Once they regrouped and got to ground level they were near the second cordon.

Here was the first time they really surprised me; they split the party *gasp*. Nicholas went to the front line to make a plea to the police to be let in while Amelina and Amir worked the crowd and Bruno used Obfuscate to get in. Amelina got some very useful info (that Andre was hit by the truck / firebomb and a woman he was with dragged him away while everyone else was trying to escape) with a masterful use of Presence.

Each time an unnamed Anarch was introduced I had each PC roll a d10, on a 1 they were the victim of their "sin" but on a 2 or 3 they recognized them (i.e. I would make up a random anarch on the spot).

When the three anarchs came out of the burning building Bruno's player rolled a 1 so Bruno recognized one of the men as his previous victim, Otto Brezler, luckily Bruno was still Obfuscated.

Golden Gate

After the very distracting 'event' everyone managed to get inside Golden Gate. I don't think I played up the fear of the fire or building collapsing enough, though. They split the party a second time and each went to check out another area. They saved Martin on the dance floor and I had the GSG9 blow the roof hatch with explosives to make their entrance and get the players moving quickly. They found the drag marks thanks to the info that Amelina got outside and followed that into the cellar.

In the cellar, one PC was able to find the combination lock easily with a fabulous Investigation roll after following the blood trail. When I alerted Bruno covertly that he knew the code he finally put two and two together and realized that he had missed out on a lot of chances to screw over the rest of the group. He feigned a Larceny roll to try to open the lock and actually got 5 successes.

They found Andre and his ghoul. They tried to feed Andre, but could sense that it was not working so...

Out the Back

The PCs decided, again unanimously, to take Andre's body with them. They busted open the back door and (instead of a garden) it lead to a maintenance tunnel (it made no sense to me that GSG9 or the local police would not have placed someone at this door otherwise) which took the PCs out several blocks and opened to street level in an alleyway. If I had to do it over again now I probably would have kept it a garden and stationed a guard or three here to test the combat system a bit.

The Body

They dismissed the idea of joining the anarchs or turning Andre's body over to them. I had everyone make Willpower checks to see if the Blood Bond had weakened but they all rolled no successes.

New Haven

We did a Willpower, Composure, and Hunger check-in and everyone was still doing great. Rouses were minimal and nobody needed to feed.

Amelina gave up her haven to the group and I really missed an opportunity there to play up her character's dark side. I knew we only had about 30 minutes left to play and I wanted to get more accomplished.

Message Interception

The next morning someone went out to make a call, of course about 20 seconds into the call they noticed some odd sounds on the line and realized they were probably being surveilled. Bruno left as well and met up with the PEGIDA pamphleteer (I really wanted to get that info to the PCs quickly). I let his player know that Bruno is the leak, but he went ahead and brought it to them anyway in the hopes that they wouldn't suspect the one that brought the note.

New Haven 2

After reading the pamphlet they decided to make their way back to Andre's panic room and hole up there with his body. We played them getting back in through the tunnel and finding the whole area cleaned up.

Escape from Berlin

We were out of time left to play, but they decided that they were going to spend as long as they could heading up to the train station above each night and looking for a way to board the train safely and get out of the country. I told them later than most likely there would have been a bloody combat on the train and they would have all died.


Everyone seemed to enjoy the simplified dice rolls. There was no combat so we didn't get to test the specifics like dodging or initiative. They thought the Rouses system seemed a bit clunky, but had no real complaints as only one PC gained any Hunger during the game. Because nobody needed to feed during the game we did not get to test the 'you are what you eat' (or YAWYE) system.

Session 2 was far more eventful and we got to test out a few mechanics we missed in the first playtest...

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