A few months back, I reviewed Vampire: The Masquerade 1st Edition for my website, Keep on the Heathlands. One of the most fascinating elements of this original edition of VtM, at least to me, was the concept of The Rebirth. What was this? Why did it exist and moreover, why was it removed in Revised and Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition? Will we see it again in 5th edition when it is released from White Wolf’s crypt? In 1st Edition and 2nd Edition Vampire, The Rebirth was this idea that it was possible to somehow escape the Curse of Caine. Or more succinctly, to become human again. Such an idea is anathema to almost everything I thought I knew about White Wolf’s flagship game, and I’ve never heard of any group using the plotline in their games. The idea of becoming human once more was the bailiwick of high level rare disciplines of the most rare of bloodlines. That being said, I think The Rebirth deserves a place at the Blood Feast.
1) The Rebirth is Human
Vampire: The Masquerade is a game about humanity. I don’t mean Humanity, the statistic on your character sheet. I mean people. VtM and vampires in the World of Darkness need humans. They must live among them to feed and survive. Imagine being a person living among pigs. Now, imagine being the type of person who randomly kills, eats, and or tortures pigs when the mood strikes you. You don’t hide it, you do it in front of the other pigs. You think those pigs are going to like you, or trust you? Not likely. Now imagine being a Vampire, you used to be like the humans around you. You are told that being humane is the most important thing, that doing so prevents you from becoming a beast. Yet, you must feed. You hunger. Without the blood of your fellow man you will die; even animal blood only sustains weakly, and not at all for elder Vampires. The Rebirth is a way for you to rejoin those you feed upon. The Rebirth is a hope, ever so infinitesimal, that you can cease being a monster.
2) The Rebirth is Horrific
Sit down for this. Or not; whatever, I’m not your father. The Rebirth is personal horror at its best. I’m your Storyteller, you are playing in a small group of recently embraced Kindred. I offer you a story tidbit: you can become human again. You just have to kill your Sire. I don’t tell you how. I drop this information in a small fragment of the Book of Nod. An elder confirms, “Yes, in the old country I heard of such a thing happening. Surely you don’t want that, as such a thing steals from you all the benefits of immortality.” Now you plot, you plan, you create an entire masterpiece detailing how you are going to kill your Sire and be Reborn! Oh, did I forget to mention how you had to do it? Did I forget to mention that you need to do it within a month after being embraced? Did I forget… oh sorry… you failed your Willpower roll. You think diablerized your Sire seems like a fantastic way to ENSURE they are dead. The sun begins to set on your hope to be Reborn.
3) The Rebirth is Hope
I know, I know, the WoD is darkness on darkness with no hope or light. I think that is reductive. The darkness is only terrifying when there is light for you to retreat to. Despair is only poignant when hope still exists. Those that lose hope don’t care about Rebirth. They care about Blood, and they care about their unlife continuing for another year, or decade, or 1000 years. To have the hope Rebirth is to have the hope that one can escape the Beast, escape the hunger for blood and feel again. The emotions of humanity are stripped away from a newly embraced Vampire. Love, friendship, and empathy are things that are only memories for the Kindred. The Rebirth offers a small potential to return to true emotions once more. That is hope; that hope is something that should be cherished and cared for. Only then should it be dashed and destroyed on the altar of the Cathedral of Flesh.
Use the Rebirth in your games. It is an underused idea in Vampire and it offers all kinds of wonderful plot hooks. Let us Rebirth this torpid story idea and bring it into the new era. What harm can it do?
With 18 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind's Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. He launched,www.keepontheheathlands.com to support his gaming projects. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook. He’s a player in Underground Theatre LARPs and is running a Mage game and a D&D 5th Edition campaign. He’s a serious advocate for inclusive gaming spaces, a father, and a graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C.
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