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Vampire: The Masquerade (VTM) is a Tabletop Game and part of the World of Darkness (WoD) Universe. Both are still expanding but one thing they pushed forward was: inclusivity.
As a relatively new storyteller (think GM/games master), I am familiar with more recent books but nonetheless I could see this approach in earlier editions. Despite its reputation as an edgy Pen&Paper, you can tell that the writers were at parts aware of the diversity of people, especially when it came to LGBTQ+ characters.
They feature a beloved on/off lesbian couple, a flesh-forming androgyne and a drag queen vampire. In another sourcebook it talks about a coterie (family-like unit of vamps) that appears extensively queer as one woman states to be seemingly the only cishetero person there. One is a trans woman who talks about Gender Reassignment Surgery (using the correct terminology) and how she feels more confident in herself, as she changed from being afraid of hate crimes to being able to push back against nazis on the street with her newfound powers. To read this as a trans woman myself was very uplifting.
And if you fear that some rightwing people want to hijack this again – the corebook has a special appendix for those people, outright telling them that this is not the game for them.
There are certainly more than I personally know. But, importantly, this changed the perspective on queer people in horror movies, who were only known as villains and monsters for so long. In the 90s, VTM didn’t fall into this easy trapping anymore. What started from the interest to play vampires yourself became much more than anticipated.
It just wasn’t possible back then, in DnD and co, to play villains or characters which weren’t drawn black and white. But VTM is an intimate game, about personal horror and moral questions. A vampire is a damned creature, cursed and blessed at the same time. And the developers knew how to craft the set-up and scenario that it needs to flesh out those inner twists of the soul. What was it to be human and now an undead monster? Can you uphold the humanity in yourself and do you even want this? And you have to agree – nothing is scarier than soul searching, questioning who you are and what you have become.
The game drives balance – in the best case, everything is a different shade of grey. Morality is relative to yourself.
If this includes draining people of blood, it is a-okay for you. But that doesn’t mean everyone will agree. Each player has the capacity and possibility to form their character in any direction they want. You can play ‘evil’, of course, but what is that to others? Only the consequences will tell and VTM is known for its thick plotting, the court intrigues and social combat. Trust no one and yet, no vampire wants to stay alone, afraid to succumb to their Beast (the manifestation of the inner monster, the inhuman side rebelling each night). And as everyone is different and people are diverse, vampires naturally become a mirror of society.
The writers wanted a dark reflection of our inner turmoils, heightened by the dilemma of undeath, but also did not want to abandon human characteristics to be edgy or “grimdark”. Of course, there were many writers, but the effort was made and it welcomed us players, who are as minorities often left out of the picture.
Though it gets better with time, I have a feeling that we still have a long way to go. VTM was ‘resurrected‘ a few years ago in its current 5th edition. The brand had a troublesome past behind itself and resurfaced with an updated metaplot and changed rules – and further-reaching ways to fit it to our modern world and needs. And queer representation only got more important and the people at Paradox Interactive valued that. They didn’t forget.
So, sink your teeth into it.