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Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #203  (Vol. 5, No. 7)  This edition is for the week of February 9--15, 2004.

Book Review: The Houses of Key West
 by William Moriaty
 by Mike Smith
VH1's Bands Re-United, Part 3: Kajagoogoo
 by Andy Lalino
30 Bands That Made The '80s NOT Suck
 by Terence Nuzum
Vampire The Masquerade
 by Nick King
Hurry Back!...And The Grammy Goes To....Award Watch....Damn It! No Ewok Song....Happy Anniversary....Meet The Beatles, Part 4
 by Mike Smith
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Nicholas Rex

Gentle readers: in a move sure to inspire even more of you to question my sanity, the experiment continues as I give another neighborhood youth some webspace to express an opinion on some phase of pop culture. Introducing 23-year-old Nicholas King, who travels in the same pack of friends and gamers as Clayton (The Ogre) Smith and Joshua (Black Dog) Montgomery, previous PCR contributors and good friends. I welcome the erudite Mr. Nick to our pages, and hope you find something of interest in the following piece. ---Nolan

Vampire the Masquerade

Hello ladies and whatever the guys are calling themselves now. My name is Nick King. Iím going to be discussing several things over the next few weeks concerning whatever comes to mind. This week we are on the subject of the roleplaying game Vampire the Masquerade. This works out quite nicely considering the product line has just been brought to an end by White Wolf. Just to let you know that Iím not going to be going too in depth into the storylines or anything of that nature. I simply want to write about what the thematic material is. This is a column mostly for those who have nevered played the game but if you have, this is just the humble opinion of a long time fan of the series.

What are the core themes of Vampire the Masquerade? This is a multi-faceted question. There are many themes or subjects that are covered by the books. The main subject that is conveyed is the personal story of each Cainite. The backdrop of the biblical curse of Cain is simply window dressing for a much more meaningful story. Each Cainite or Kindred depending upon your personal choice of words is, for lack of a better term, a tragic character. Tragedy plays a large part in this story as does the ideals of want and desire over what is really important to each of us.

It starts off simply enough. You play a random mortal who either stumbled onto the truth or the truth came knocking on your door. You were Embraced by another Cainite. Whether this was from some deep seeded need for companionship or the desire for another pawn in the great chess game of the elders is inconsequential. You are ripped from the very bosom of life and thrust into an unending night of hunting, social politicking, and an erroding spirit. What do you do?

This is the fundamental question that perplexes each character and conversly every player. How do you make this characterís time in the World of Darkness meaningful? How do you bring to life something that is altogether inhuman? These are questions that every player asks themselves at one point or another. The answers to them are quite different than one might think. Some play their characters to become the most powerful member in their chosen society. While gaining power and keeping it are worthy tools, one must keep in mind that there will always be someone more powerful than you. The powers and abilities are all nothing more than simply a means to an end. The end of course being your enjoyment and fulfillment playing these characters.

Another way of looking at this is from the human aspect. If you were ripped away from life itself, cursed with immortality, and made into a parasitic mockery of life, how would you react? Would you hold true to the human part of you that still lingers? The very touch of a beam of sunlight or fire is painful to you in ways we cannot even begin to imagine as humans. And to top it all off, there is now a ravenous Beast beating within your mind. This Beast is anything and everything you believe to be evil and wrong with the world. It exists to remind you that you are predator and with the slightest provocation, it can take over your body, robbing you of your free will. You become a slave to the most basic of all human drives: survival at any cost. Gorge yourself on blood and sow carnage when you can, that is the way the Beast would have you perform.

One last thorn that appears in the crown now firmly planted into your skull is the world you are now immersed in. Undead creatures, some older than most organized religions, use you to fit their own whims and agendas. You are a pawn in their great game of who can get the upper hand over the other. The real world doesnít prepare one for this shock to body, mind, and spirit. Nothing does for that matter. How would you handle the situation?

But the worst enemy that a vampire faces in this game is not the other vampires, mortals, or even the bloodthirsty Beast howling in the back of your mind. It is, quite simply, time. Time becomes the great equalizer, just like in life. Over time you become jaded, less human, as you remove yourself further and further from the everyday world and into the shadow world of your kind. That is the tragedy that awaits all vampires.

This is my opinion on the matter. Agree or disagree, itís up to you. I appreciate and encourage feedback from all who read this. As for the next column, whatever strikes my fancy will make it. Perhaps weíll continue this column into the very story of Vampire the Masquerade or any other game that I feel needs to be written about. Anyway, I hope you have an excellent week and Iíll talk at ya later.

Nicholas King

"Nicholas Rex: On Gaming, Vampires, and Otherwise" is ©2004 by Nick King.   All graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.