Monday, April 11, 2011

How Tom Moldvay did influenced Vampire?

When “Vampire: The Masquerade” was released, my favorite players all wanted to play that brand new Vampire instead of D&D. There was already a French RPG about Vampires, but it vanished as soon as this one appeared in the game’s stores. At first, it looked as something entirely new, focusing on ”storytelling” rather dungeon crawling. I was caught into the vampire mood for the next ten years. Now, reading back Vampire and discovering the history of our hobby more deeply, I find very striking how oldschool is Vampire, and more, how Tom Moldvay influenced it!

So… imagine a game were you pick a class (fighter / brujah, ranger / gangrel, thief / nosferatu, wizard / tremere, bard / toreador, then assassin / assamite, illusionist / ravnos, and so on), an alignment (Law  / camarilla or Chaos / Sabbat) and explore old pyramids (Diablerie in Mexico!) to get experience points and raise levels (generations – vampire is the only game with a descending level system). Nothing really new since Dave Arneson… Just, Mark Rhein*Hagen was a genius to make old concepts to feel new, and a great game designer.

Anyway, my point is not about the Oldschool vs Newschool debate, but about Tom Moldvay’s influence on Vampire. Writing an extensive article on Moldvay for the French Wikipedia, I took the time to read as much as I can of his writings. “Trouble Brewing” was a blast!  With more than 170 NPCs described with a fair amount of details, it’s a perfect campaign setting. The city of Lakefront is, clearly, Chicago during the 20’s. What was the first campaign setting published for vampire, celebrated as one of the most complete one at that time? “Chicago by night”, which described a fair amount of NPCs. More, what town was described in the Vampire’s core book? Gary. Gary! Remember the Chicago area was already the base setting for the C&C society, where Blackmoor and Greyhawk were first located. I just can’t imagine all this to be a hazard.

A common characteristic of Tom Moldvay’s modules are opposing factions. The best sue of this feature is The Lost city, where the Cynidiceans are three opposing factions and characters can join one of them, or use their oppositions for their own goals. But this feature appears in Isle of dread, in Castle Amber, in the Volturnus series and so on… Even if this appears under the pen of others writers (Paul Jacquays, for example), this feature is more typical of Moldvay than any other oldschool module designer. And these factions lead to Vampire’s coteries, more than any Ravenloft’s lone castellan. Maybe I’m wrong, but I enjoy dreaming it!

6 comments:

Trey said...

I think some of those things might be conincidental, but your main point is well taken. Vampire owes a lot to rpgs that game before; its innovations were largely in presentation (and perhaps a bit in subject matter).

DHBoggs said...

You know Moldvey did do that really interesting undead hunter class - the Taltos - in dragon mag #247.

roleplay said...

Taltos is hungarian word. Taltos was the hungarian Shaman.

Nicolas Dessaux said...

I'll have a look on TM articles, Dan, that's one of the things I still have to do. Thanks for the translation roleplay.

Risus Monkey said...

I have great fondness for that first edition of Vampire. You are right that it feels surprisingly old school (especially in light of how the game eventually developed).

Venger Satanis said...


Yes, the influence is strong. I think that's another reason why V:tM was so successful. It had the right ratio of familiar and new. Hard to get that perfect balance, but I think Vampire achieved it.

Great post, by the way!

VS