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Roleplay and the VC – the radical influence V:tM has had on Vampyres

Roleplay and the VC – the radical influence V:tM has had on Vampyres

Can we all just come to the agreement that Vampire the Masquerade had a lot to do with the Vampyre Community becoming so popular and that a fucking lot of the VC’s pseudo-political nonsense is tradition that comes directly from the LARP games but everyone likes it and holds it dear to their heart… and that’s OKAY.

Let’s all take a deep shadow work breath together, okay? Ready? *breathe in* — *breathe out*

Roleplay had a lot to do with the community, and still does…

*gasp*

I know. I know. How fucking dare I?

But let’s be honest with ourselves for a second here. You mean to tell me the Royal Court of [Insert Location] is having a meeting with the King and/or Queen of the City in a seedy nightclub, sitting in a circle having a meeting of the royal council to discuss the future of your particular territory of vampyres…. and in the same damn breath screech “this isn’t roleplay!” Come on, get reallll.

We all need to take a collective sobering look at the role LARP games have played in the Vampyre Community and the influence it has had and will continue to have on our community.

 

Most Vampyres of the Vampyre Community in modern years have either barked, or watched others bark at a random person about how “this isn’t roleplay.” It’s usually a quip said to someone who is indulging too much into the fantasy side of things. A Dracula’s cousin twice removed type of person.

But with the assertion of NO ROLEPLAYING in every real vampyre space…. It’s listed in almost every group’s rules, it’s part of every organization’s protocols… you’d think with how much it’s repeated that maybe there wouldn’t be any roleplaying in the VC, right? Yet, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth.  But the reality is, so many people in the Vampyre Community are roleplaying to varying degrees. Even Vampyres who are “of the blood”the phrase of the blood is used by certain groups of vampyres, especially in the Gotham Halo, to refer to individuals who have a natural intrinsic vampyric nature about them. It's like an energetic marking that reads as vampyre that can't be faked. are often indulging in roleplay antics. Some of these roleplay mechanics are embedded so deeply in the traditions of some areas, it’s just accepted parts of their community tradition.

Role-play is defined as “the changing of one’s behavior to assume a role, either unconsciously to fill a social role, or consciously to act out an adopted role.” This can mean the act of playing a character in theater or in a game, the act of taking on a role in a social setting, the act of changing your demeanor based on your surroundings to play a specific role in a scenario.

As children, we learn how to roleplay through make believe games, where we adopt roles and play them out through ourselves or through dolls. Other types of roleplay can include historical re-enactment, improvisational theater, role playing games, psychology, and training exercises. Roleplaying for training purposes is often used as a means to rehearse situations. This can include things like spiritual leader rehearsals, flight simulation training, medical role-play, educational role-play, military & tactical simulation, and disaster training. Not only this, but roleplaying can have psychological benefits for your confidence, it can train you how to be a better speaker, performer, or how to navigate settings that otherwise make you nervous.

Roleplay is not a dirty word, despite how it’s wielded within the Vampyre Community. It’s just a topic that requires a respect for the boundaries between real and make believe. There is a difference between saying “So and so has Toreador energy” and saying “I diablerized the soul of [someone?] and killed them for forsaking my family…” or some off the wall shit.

Okay, am I suggesting Vampyres should be okay with roleplaying in our communities? I’m not suggesting we should blur the lines between reality and make believe by integrating gameplay into the community. However, that’s already been done well before I got here.

We should talk about how ingrained roleplay is into our community already anyways.

Nevermind the fact that some of the earliest instances of Vampyre Community came from things like the Count Dracula Fan Club (1965) and Dark Shadows Conventions(1983)….  but in this particular blog we’re talking about a stream of the VC many of us are more intimately familiar with.

This era started in the early to mid 1990s. With the release of Vampire the Masquerade in 1991, members of the Vampyre Community began to play the game, indulging in their vampyric nature and spirit through the use of V:tM’s provided gameplay mechanics. M. Belanger has discussed in the past how they’d go to LARP nights and seek out those who got really into the game, pulling those aside whose energies aligns as possible real vampyres to talk to them so they could bridge the gap between gameplay and the real vampyre community.  Of course, there was community before 1991, but the release of V:tM along with the vampire media boom of those years, a concoction of vampyric circumstances began to bubble up. The Vampyre Community would never be the same because of it.

Fast forward a few years and Vampire the Masquerade gameplay events became more commonplace. In New York (all over the country, really), there were decent sized groups getting together for organized LARP events. As you can see in the flyers below, this is how Sabretooth got its start. It absolutely undeniably started as roleplaying games. The Gotham Halo and all of its traditions were built from Vampire the Masquerade beginnings. Thus, all the various offshoots that are bred from the bloodlines and traditions of the Gotham Halo are undeniably rooted in roleplay.

This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. One that many people are in denial about.  

To be fair, it’s usually not Gotham old heads that are in denial about this fact. I have first hand experience with some of them who give out V:tM materials as literal socialite & metaphysics training. It’s usually newer generations of online community screaming about “no roleplay” so they feel like they be taken seriously. How do I know? Well, I was that person once too.

 

Are those Sabretooth Vampire the Masquerade event flyers? They weren’t a Clan yet, but that’s definitely Sebastiaan’s Sabretooth.  Sabretooth events included LARPS at places like Medieval Times dinner theaters, hotels, and nightclubs. Oh, they’re playing V:tM Dark Ages? Vampire: The Dark Ages took place in a Dark Medieval period known in the game as the “Long Night.” This style of V:tM was heavy on the “Lords and Ladies” stuff, “playing games with the crowned heads of Europe, and traveling waging war across the lands in which they travel across.”  Gee, I wonder where that feudal royalty system the VC loves to play with comes from. Not that they didn’t have the mock royalty system in regular V:tM too, cause they definitely do… but it’s no wonder the early Community players love things like heraldry so much.

 


(Heraldic Shields of V:tM Clans)

 

Over the years 1995-1996 Sebastiaan would make connections with legendary New York City night clubs like Limelight, the Bank, MOTHER, and others – creating the foundations for the Endless Nights Vampire Balls for decades to come. These venues would lead the way to cultivate the Gotham Vampyre community in which everyone looks to with nostalgic yearning. At the time; due to the media frenzy surrounding the disappearance of Susan Walsh, the VC would suddenly get a drastic amount of attention. There’s no such thing as bad publicity though, and this media attention would springboard the VC into a level of popularity that people were not quite ready for. To the point that Vampyres were once on police gang watchlists.


(The Gates of MOTHER)


(Limelight – infamous NYC Church nightclub)

Sometime around 1996-1997  the dynamics of the gameplay started to come into a more “real world” context. This is when the first “Sanguinomicon” was written, and the age of the Sanguinarium began. From here, Sebastiaan began his path of articulating his current of Elorath and what would eventually become Black Veils Vampyrism 25 years later. He took what he learned from the LARP, applied it to real life, and in a chaos magick way created his own spiritual system that he’s pieced together over the last 3 decades. He has time tested this system, gathered a band of loyal followers, and projects this system outwardly now. Despite its roleplay origins, he’s created something viable for his followers.

What continued forward after the conception of Elorath would be the great Vampyre boom of the late 90s/early 2000s. With the perfect storm of vampire media popularity, mixed with some remnants of the satanic panic & the Susan Walsh case, the growth of the Goth scene, and the VC sensationalist media popularity of those years, the Vampyre Community grew in unprecedented ways. Through the work of a few visionaries, occultists, game masters, and party promoters, they came together and crafted the Vampyre Community as we know it today. Part LARP, part club scene, part esoteric order(s) – the Vampyre Community became a place where people could indulge in their vampire fantasies and let their beastial spirits freely hang out.

With places like MOTHER, The Hidden Shadows Dojo, and other home base locations strewn throughout New York, the Gotham Halo was consecrated and became one of the biggest Vampyre hotspots to date. The community of the Gotham Halo was a different animal back then. They had their community in person, together all the time, in the streets on the day to day. They had places like Halloween Adventure where the local fangsmiths worked and a lot of the community would hang around the shop, or the nightclubs they’d see each other at a few times a week. Their scene was all about boots on the ground seeing each other in the streets every day type stuff. Which in the days before camera phones meant being able to put hands on you and deal with you if you got out of line. That’s just not how it is anymore. Even with New York being the densest IRL community around, it’s nothing like what it once was.

But because of this day to day interaction coupled with the events where they held court or other “official business,” they were able to bring the rules and regulations of the gameplay into real life, making it philosophy and dogma that many abided by. So much of Vampyre Culture is roleplay brought into the real world and some members of the community have been playing the game for so long they’ve forgotten that it’s a game. They’ve immersed so heavily that their entire lives are engrossed by this world that they’ve forgotten they don’t have to play along with.

How much of the community is really mirroring Vampire the Masquerade?

To be completely frank, I have no idea how much. A lot though. I never actually played V:tM. I have however become much more informed over my years in the community about V:tM gameplay dynamics and mechanics. Early on in my VC tenure I latched onto that “OmG No Roleplaying!!” attitude that the VC tries to project. Which is a defense mechanism to protect the VC from the “Omg Turn Me Vladdy!” or “I’m an 800 year old Ancient” types. But boy if that attitude against roleplay isn’t extraordinarily misguided. The sociological evolution of how the VC got to where it is and unpacking some of the influence on widely held vampyric beliefs is something that fascinates me more and more the longer I’m on this path. So, I’ve found it useful to start looking into some of the official Vampire the Masquerade materials. Man, what a journey it’s been.

 

Anyone who has actually played V:tM or knows anything about it knows that World of Darkness games have an extensive series of manuals, clanbooks, lore books, and other volumes for all of their games. It’s an impressive amount of material. So, to cover all of it would take a crazy amount of time… but I’ve been working through some of it lately just to deconstruct some of the things that I know correlate between the game and the community, which inspired the writing of this post. I also know there are a ton of community members who have no frame of reference when it comes to V:tM material. So, I’m trying to work through it to help relay what I find to you. I’ve barely scratched the surface at this point, so I’m sure I’ll write further articles about my findings as I continue my research. But even with just scratching the surface, there’s so much to share.

 

Let’s check out some of the influence that VtM has had on the Greater Vampyre Community:

 

Recognize this?

It’s one of the most recognizable universal vampire ankhs around. It’s from Vampire the Masquerade.

 

Vampyre Houses & Clans

The V:tM influence on the real world concept of Vampyre Clans is twofold.

First, since the release of V:tM, VC groups have aligned themselves with the clans of Vampire: the Masquerade kind of like zodiac signs. Groups will identify with the archetypal spirit of these clans, even going so far as to name their real life clan after the V:tM clan. I have a sister who considers herself Malkavian, for example. Her name even says so. You can find a clan zodiac reference in Lord Shaolin’s Gotham Archives.

But beyond the V:tM Clan alignments, Houses in the VC can grow to a point where smaller offshoot Houses are formed. When a bigger House suddenly Houses a bunch of offshoots, the larger House becomes a Clan. V:tM Clans have similar instances of Clans holding smaller Houses or Factions within them.

For example, in V:tM you have the Brujah clan. But the Brujah Clan has 2 main factions within it, the Prometheans which align with the Anarch and the Hellenes that align with the Camarilla.

In real life, you can have clans like the O’Mallie Clan. Despite us being “House O’Mallie,” we are in fact a Clan because we have numerous Houses under the O’Mallie umbrella. House O’Mallie originated in 1995, thus having 30 years of history that includes children of O’Mallie growing up and starting their own Houses. Due to O’Mallie having several Houses under our banner, we have become a Clan.

 

Vampyre/Vampire Courts & Royalty

This one is one I have a lot of feelings about. Both because of what I had been sucked into in the past, plus what I have witnessed in the subsequent years thereafter. I have what some would consider hot takes and opinions about this…

Let’s start off with a personal experience story, shall we? Once upon a time around 2016, there was something a few people were championing for called the “Unity Project.” It was a project in which two “Monarchs” worked to scam people all over the Country, grooming them to become “Kings” and “Queens” so they could try to convince these poor souls to spend a ton of money throwing Vampire Balls to take credit for. It didn’t go so well. But because of this coupled with the support of some popular but problematic vampyre influencers at the time, the idea of Courts and Royals found a ridiculous amount of popularity in subsequent years.

The Unity Project is far from the first to create the dynamic of Courts and Royals. Originally according to White Wolf/V:tM, certain members of a territory’s higher powers, Elders, Inner Circles, Princes, Royalty, whatever… these individuals can call and hold Court as necessary. They were events in which the community’s ringleaders could call together to hold council about whatever issue may arise. The original Gotham Halo Courts were (and still are) held in this regard. The Court of Gotham, SNOG, Court of Lazarus… All of these things were crafted in the image of the original V:™ Courts as events where community leaders and members gather together, flavored with the energy of those who curated the Court at the time.

Courts didn’t become Organizations in the way people know now until much later. I’m unsure as to exactly when the craze of the Vampire Court began, but I do know the Unity Project turned that system out hard.

One thing across the board that remains unequivocally true no matter what the format of the Court is… is that the royalty stuff is NOT FUCKING REAL.

There are no real Kings and Queens. There are no Masters that control any domains. It’s made up. The titles are made up. The constructs are made up… I make the “Whose line is it anyways” reference “The rules are made up and the points don’t matter” all the time and it’s often in reference to the crazy things people do for this pursuit of fake prestige. These things only matter if you want them to matter. No person has the right to lord over you and to pretend to govern you. It truly doesn’t matter unless you let it matter.

They can’t force you to bow to them. They only have the power to govern over the parties/events they throw and nothing more. They only have the power to Lord over the people who consent to be put in a position of subservience. The worst they can possibly do is ostracize you from their popularity contests and make the events they frequent real awkward for you. Worst case scenario you end up banned from certain events. Which if you have a life of substance, that won’t matter too much. If they’re super immature (and many are) they can heckle you on Facebook. But you have the power to block and move on.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with serving someone or working with someone you deem worthy of such, but it is not something anyone can force you to do. Those who become royalty to their people in communities like this do so through service to their community and then the community places that crown on your head. You can self appoint yourself the King Poobah of whatever you want, it doesn’t mean anyone’s gonna respect you as such. The louder you are about your own digital ego masturbation, the less support you usually actually have. No matter what amount of grandstanding about being the King or Queen of a domain one does, it truly has no impact on you or your life if you don’t want it to. It’s purely up to you how much energy you choose to give to that dynamic.

Everyone’s out here trying to act like they’re The Camarilla, yet another V:tM construct. The Camarilla is the global organization that maintains and oversees a collection of feudal domains. The Camarilla is who runs the domains, holds court, and appoints councils of people like Princes, Primogens, Seneschal, Sheriffs, etc. The rat race for royalty and the drama that surrounds it is completely based around the nature of the Camarilla and trying to emulate it in real life.

 

Heraldry in the VC

Heraldry in the vampyre community seems to be a dying art, but it’s certainly one that was inspired by V:tM  as well. People could argue that they’re inspired by the actual heraldic art of feudal systems since they’re often emulating those systems to begin with… but if V:tM didn’t do it first, would they have? Perhaps… as there’s some Rennie/Scadian overlap in the VC. But I’d be willing to wager that it wouldn’t have been so prevalent where it was had there not been such an incursion of V:tM tradition into the real world sphere.

 

I’ll be honest, I personally love the art of Heraldry and I’m sure a lot of others in the VC do as well, so it wasn’t a hard thing to adopt. It’s why I jumped right on that bandwagon without questioning much about why it was a thing. When I learned that V:tM has a whole line of heraldic shields for the Vampire Clans I couldn’t help but laugh.

 

There’s so many other things I could include, but this article is already incredibly long… but you get the point. I’ll probably write a companion piece at a later time that elaborates on even more of the similarities.

 

The moral of the story is to know your roots and be honest with yourself and with others about them…

It’s more than okay to recognize the roleplay influence of the community and the roleplay nature of some of the things we systematically interact with in the vampyre community. It’s even okay to admit you enjoy roleplay and even the more fantasy indulgent experiences within the vampyre community. But it’s important to be honest about what is real and what’s not so we don’t get swept up in other people’s games. It’s important to recognize what you’re involved in so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you consent to the antics of those who are too far immersed into the roleplay nature of some parts of the community. Just as it’s okay to want to immerse in these things, it’s just as okay to want absolutely nothing to do with it. Your life is your responsibility. You control what you will tolerate and what you are willing to expose yourself to. You are the composer of the symphony that is your life. None of this is mandatory to involve yourself with to be considered a vampyre or part of the vampye community. It’s just one stream within a much larger current.

 

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About The Author

☥Jessica O'Mallie-Corvidae

Jessica Corvidae is an artist, writer, creator, teacher, and full time Vampyre Witch. Her uniquely practical Pagan approach to Vampyre Witchcraft and her longstanding leadership within the Vampyre Community has piqued the interests of audiences across the globe. Jessica’s no-nonsense attitude and low tolerance for bullshit has gained not only the attention, but the friendship and loyalty of many along the way.

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