RPG Club Plays Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines Part 3
Now that it’s October, the RPG Club finds themselves playing Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines because that’s as close as we’ll likely ever come to a “theme” for anything and colons are pretty great. The third week has our intrepid heroes exploring Chinatown and Hollywood, neck deep in all kinds of political intrigue. At this point, we don’t know who we can trust – but that’s an issue for next week.
I was never a Goth kid in high school, but I did find the one guy I knew who comfortably identified with the subculture pretty interesting. He wore a black coat, Cradle of Filth t-shirts, and a spiky collar. He liked super abrasive metal and cheesy ’80s horror movies. Aside from the uniform clothing style and dismissal of non-dark art, there were definitely appealing aspects about the whole thing.
After spending a bit of time exploring mausoleums and fighting off zombies in Bloodline‘s Hollywood cemetery I’m starting to think that the game may be a sort of gateway drug for potential Goths. The whole aesthetic of Bloodlines seems tailor-made for those who love brooding and darkness. Of course this is pretty clear from the focus on vampires alone, but it only becomes more clear as the game goes on. The early 2000s industrial rock blasting through the nightclubs (and the outfits of the hilarious dancers) is almost too stereotypical to take at face value. The menacing “sexiness” that seems to drip from every one of the game’s vampires appears tailor-made for Anne Rice fans. And the California setting, full of decrepit storefronts, dark cemeteries, and spooky mansions (what’s up Ocean House Hotel) creates an aesthetic that certain people would probably like to live in far beyond the Bloodlines‘ runtime.
I’ll never be Goth, no matter how often I blast Bauhaus or watch horror movies every October. That’s OK. I’ve never identified with a subculture and definitely don’t intend to start now. Just the same, most of us have a little part of ourselves that’s attracted to the kind of art that subcultures form around. The darkness and (seemingly tongue-in-cheek) cynicism that gives Bloodlines its mood also provides everyone with a way to explore the darkness in their own personalities and maybe, just maybe, end up embracing their inner Goth.
Most games need health packs in some form so the player doesn’t have to be perfect when they play through. Similarly, most games tie them into the narrative somehow. Painkillers help humans with a zombie apocalypse, food heals people wandering through a broken-down dystopia, candy heals kids trying to save the world from imagined enemies. It’s thematic. So what are the health packs in Bloodlines?
See, as a vampire, your health regenerates, but super slowly. You can heal up really quickly if you are ‘feeding’, but stronger enemies can’t be fed upon. I didn’t try feeding on vampire enemies because that just seemed weird.
How, then, does one survive in a dungeon filled with strong vampire opponents? Well, the level designers put in health packs. I’m not talking first aid kits or candy, though – this is a vampire game. Here, the health packs are humans.
These guys are all over the place, just standing there, being freaking creepy. From a plot standpoint, they make sense: vampire hangouts would want a renewable food source, and the fact that these guys have their eyes torn out and are completely unresponsive makes sense given their… situation. Honestly, I felt dirty using them for health, but I did anyway.
That’s the power of this genius move. These ‘cattle’ were put in to help me get through this dungeon – they’re the health packs I need to survive, and they did the job. I could have been patient and waited in a safe place for my health to regenerate, but I didn’t even though it’s dark and creepy, I took the quick and easy way out. This is another detail that adds richness to the game; the designers picked a way to heal me while still drilling in the concept that while I still pretend to have morals, I’m a monster who preys on the weak for convenience. If I’ve taken this step, the designers ask, how long until I start preying on the weak for fun?