A group of role-playing enthusiasts over at Pixels or Death have started to play through Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and that's led to the start of a multi-installment retrospective that shares the impressions from several different editors. A sampling:
Shortly after awakening as a brand new vampire, you're put under the care of Jack, who promises to guide you to Santa Monica. The first, most essential thing you need to learn is how to feed. Yet, before you sink your freshly sharpened fangs into that drunk stumbling around in the alley a few feet away, Jack instructs that it's vital that you don't kill innocent humans. You can slake your thirst, but don't drain them completely. There's a rule in this world, you see. Killing humans depletes your humanity. You may now be a (monster), but you still have the faculties of self-awareness and restraint. Kill too many, do too many evil deeds, and you might find yourself succumbing to the most bestial part of yourself. You will frenzy, gaining great power but sacrificing control. You will lose yourself.
Bloodlines is set in a world where corruption dominates. People, vampires and humans alike, thrive on blackmail, bribery and double crossing to get ahead. As a vampire in this world, do you use your fledgling supernatural abilities to feed off of this corruption and pull yourself to the top, risking your sense of self? Or do you desperately cling to your remaining humanity; to the person you once were in an attempt to preserve some sense of normalcy or to make things better? We see these issues framed in different ways throughout the first chapter alone helping two vampire lovers escape LA to find happiness away from the politicking that once pulled them apart; or in exploiting an insane vampire baroness's dissociative disorder to work to your advantage. You influence how these scenarios resolve themselves, be it for better or for worse.
It turns out that there is a lot more coursing beneath the surface of Bloodlines than one might expect. What could easily be a clichÃ©-ridden mess of a game turns out to be, so far, a fine RPG with a strong character driven story. It will be interesting to see the direction in which Bloodlines heads next as we move onward to week two.