Vampire: the Masquerade
Vampire: The Masquerade is a role-playing game created by White Wolf, set in the World of Darkness (or what is currently known as the Old World of Darkness, or OWoD.)
The World of Darkness is described as a world very similar to our own, with subtle differences. Everything is darker, grittier, and makes you want to puke your guts out. Despair is a little more prevalent, joy and innocence a little more rare. Crime and divorce rates are just the slightest bit higher, and the idea that "things that go bump in the night" may be lurking around every corner is not as far-fetched as it is in our world. As it should be - in the World of Darkness, vampires, werewolves, mages, wraiths, and changelings are all real. They may be lurking in the darkest woods or guarding arcane secrets in forgotten temples - or working as a bouncer at your favorite nightclub.
Tabletop play usually consists of a group of 2-6 players and one Storyteller (or ST.) The players assume the roles of vampires (usually) within the World of Darkness, with abilities represented numerically on a character sheet. The ST describes the situations the player characters (PCs) find themselves in, as well as acting the roles of all non-player characters (NPCs). (In this, the ST functions in much the same way as a Dungeon Master or Game Master in other role-playing games.)
Tabletop play usually takes place around a large table or other flat surface (hence the name). While the style of play encourages conflict resolution through role-play (i.e., players talking things out and negotiating solutions while remaining in-character), some interactions (including, but not limited to, violence or the use of supernatural "Disciplines") are resolved through rolling 10-sided dice.
Live-action role play (or LARP for short) usually has at least one (sometimes more than one) storyteller, and any number of players. The primary difference between LARP and tabletop play is that in LARP, actions are acted out rather than merely described. (Physical contact and any representation of real weapons is strongly discouraged by White Wolf.) Some characters and groups may also incorporate costumes, props, or scenery to enhance the experience. A secondary difference is that in LARP, much of the conflict is expected to come from other players rather than storyteller-created plots.
Conflict resolution in a Vampire: the Masquerade LARP varies according to the group, but White Wolf has published a companion system called Mind's Eye Theater (MET) that replaces dice rolls with the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors (although other methods, such as drawing stones of three different colors, has been used as well.)
- Followers of Set
Both the tabletop and the live-action versions of Vampire have attracted considerable controversy for their anti-Christian themes and possible destructive influence. Of particular concern is the possibility that the game will serve as a "gateway drug" leading to interest in vampire-like cults. Bobbi Jo O'Neal, a registered nurse with experience dealing with modern deviant behaviors such as pseudo-vampirism, comments on this, noting that "Contemporary interest in vampire-like cults began out of several role-playing games such as "Masquerade" and "Dungeons & Dragons.""
In at least one case, the live-action version of the game has been linked to murder. On Thanksgiving Day in 1996, Roderick Ferrell, a 16-year-old from Kentucky, attacked and murdered Richard and Naoma Ruth Wendorf with the aid of members of his cult, which he called "The Vampire Clan"—a group which had started out playing Vampire: the Masquerade and progressed into full cult status and behavior, including communion with demons and human blood-drinking rituals. Among the cult members was the Wendorfs' own daughter Heather. Ferrell's mother Sondra was also apparently led into criminal activity through a fascination with vampires; she was charged with writing sexually explicit letters to a 14-year-old in which she revealed her desire to become a vampire.