Characters, Illustrations and Attributes in Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage

Hello everyone! This is the first in a small series of posts where we want to introduce a few key concepts and new ideas of our upcoming game, Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage.

The basic structure of the game is very simple: Each turn, players choose a character card to join their bloodline. This character is his own personality and will act accordingly on all battlegrounds currently in play. The character may then be used to take an intrigue action if the player desires. At the end of the game they will automatically be counted for any mission cards that fit its type.

We’ll discuss more topics, including  battlegrounds, missions and intrigue cards later. This time we want to focus on the characters:

Double-sided Cards

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All character cards come with 2 sides, human and vampire.

The human side portrays the characters as they were in life. There’s all kinds of different characters, beggars and kings, hardened mercenaries and grieving children. For gameplay purposes humans don’t have any special skills, so the only way they affect the game is via their personal combination of attributes (more below). In the first game, almost all characters will be human.

However: after every game players have the opportunity to Embrace one of the humans in their current bloodline – or to endow an existing vampire with additional traits.

Once a character is Embraced, it is turned around to reveal its vampiric side. That side shows a fully colored portrait of the character in their vampiric form, as well as one trait inherent to them. Players will add the appropriate clan sticker and name the character and then return it to the common pool of cards.

Embracing characters like this will not (usually) make them exclusively available to you. They might just as easily end up on another player’s hand in the next round. As this is the main legacy element of the game, it means that you will remain on (mostly) equal footing with players for the purposes of playing individual game rounds.

So it is no problem for a player to skip a few games of a campaign and return later. They might have lost some ground in the meta-game of the campaign – but their chance of winning the current game are the same as everyone elses.

Here’s an early rendition of what character progression might look like (Note that the artwork and layout is alpha-stage):

(From human side to vampire side to first sticker added)

The little quill in the top left indicates the character to be a scholar-type. The three flags on the side of the card that get expanded as the character is developed signal the character’s basic inclinations and dispositions via Attribute Colors. Beyond portrait and name, these  are what gives each character card their own personality.

Character Types and Personalities

The four types of characters in Heritage are indicated by one of these symbols: Sword, Quill, Mask and Coin. As you might imagine, Sword indicates a warlike profession, Quill is for the scholarly types. Coin is for merchants and rich people while the Masks are more on the shady side.  Generally you will need a certain combination of character types in your bloodline in order to complete one of the historic missions in the game (more on that in another post).

As for Attribute Colors, they are the main way that characters interact with the world and they are what fleshes out an individual character for the purpose of the game.

These are the different categories:

Politics/Attitude: Red points to nobility, arrogance, elitism or refinement while Green signifies things like low birth, humility or egalitarian tendencies.

Ethics/Spiritual: Blue signals humanism, wisdom, benevolence or even passivity or meekness. Yellow might mean the character is cruel or evil – or it could stand for passion, force of character or creative destruction.

Origin/Geographical: The characters are roughly divided geographically and culturally by the four cardinal directions, as signified by black (North), brown(East), white(South) and turquoise(West).

Attribute Colors are a way for us to introduce role-playing elements into the game without making the game overly complicated to read and play. They are thematically kept vague in order to give players room to define their favourite characters in the way they desire.

But it’s important to note that Attribute Colors have an absolutely unambiguous effect in gameplay. So if -for example- your character has the green attribute color, it might mean he is an uneducated peasant or it might mean he is a noble striving for a more equal society. But it will always shift power slightly towards the Low Clans if the corresponding battleground is in play.

And since characters always apply all their colors to all battlegrounds in play and their character type always counts for missions, the main consideration for players when choosing them is to weigh those different consequences against each other.

I might, for example, really want to play Elias, my trusted noble knight in order to crush low clan opposition in the Battle of the Vampire Castes, but maybe his choleric personality will hurt my clan so badly that it is not worth it? Oh well… I desperately need warriors for my mission. Good old Elias will do the job!

That kind of situation is typical for Heritage and for us it is one of the reasons we enjoy the game so much: When considering the advantages and disadvantages of characters for your bloodline, the line between theme and mechanics starts to blur.